I had a delightful visitor in my office a few weeks ago, Beth Albright. She was so bubbly and wanted to write an essay for Christmas. I wanted to share her writings with you, as she is a published author. Her newest book is A Christmas Wedding In Dixie.
Mistletoe Magic By Beth Albright
Lord have mercy, honey! It’s not a good thing for a diabetic to be ridin’ down the road with three dozen Krispy Kremes sittin’ on the front seat next to me. Lord help me, I’m gonna sneak one. I’m weak. I had promised myself I would never do this, but there I was, headin’ down to Tuscaloosa to see my daughter, Blake for Christmas Eve. Doughnuts in hand. My name is Kitty. I’m married to the former Mayor of T-Town, as we lovingly refer to our little piece of heaven on earth. I had been at a wedding in Birmingham all weekend.
Who the heck gets married at Christmastime? It’s like getting married the third Saturday in October—nobody would dare even think about that. That day is famous! It even has a Wikipedia Page. Every southerner knows that’s the Alabama-Tennessee game and if you have a heartbeat, you’re watchin’ the game.
I pulled into the long driveway at my daughter’s home, all the trees covered in tiny white Christmas lights, only to see a young woman holding mistletoe over her head and kissing my son-in-law! He was fixin’ to see a southern mama bear in action.
“Sugar, you’d better be his niece I’ve never met or I’ll be knockin’ you from here to next week! I don’t care if it is the baby Jesus’s birthday in six hours!”
“Oh uhm, Kitty! Yes, this is uhm, Savannah, she’s actually my new assistant at the police station. Uhm, she was just leaving.”
“Yes, she most certainly is,” I said with a huff, jerking the old plastic sprig of mistletoe out of her hot little hands.
“This mistletoe belonged to my mother,” I informed. “My father was holding it over her head the very first time he ever kissed her. I’ll take that!”
“Oh hey, are you the famous Miss Kitty?” Savannah slurred. It was obvious she had been enjoying the eggnog.
“Ooh, my ride is here, night y’all,” she grinned as she stumbled down the stairs to a young man waiting for her in his little black Porsche.
I grabbed Sonny by his earlobe and dragged him inside.
“Miss Kitty, believe me she was kissing everybody with that mistletoe.” Sonny smiled with his left eyebrow cocked up, like he always did when he was kidding or in trouble.
I rehung the mistletoe where it had always been placed since I passed it on to Blake—in the doorway between the dining room and family room.
I hugged everyone hello and settled into a chair between the Christmas tree and the fireplace with my three-year-old grandson, Beau, in my lap. We were singing Jingle Bells for the fourth time when I spotted the envelope on the coffee table. It was red with no return address. But there was no mistaking the fancy lawyer handwriting. I put Beau down and grabbed the letter and walked into the kitchen to find my daughter. She was pouring herself some eggnog with a dash of something amber. I decided not to ask—about the liquid addition anyway. I was too focused on the letter.
“Honey, do I need to know something?” I popped.
“Mother! What are you doing reading my mail?” Blake jumped as she yanked the red envelope from my hands.
“I just happened to see this and recognized the handwriting. I mean you were married to the man for years. I’d know this fancy cursive anywhere. Pompous.”
“Harry just sent me a card, that’s all. It’s nothing,” she said shaking her head.
“It says here he will see you at midnight with a surprise. A surprise? I mean I know that man still has a thing for you but y’all did divorce and now you are happily married to the father of my only grandchild. What does he mean, surprise? Is he bringing that t-niny thing he’s engaged to? I certainly hope not.”
“I know it! She’s so skinny she has to run around in the shower just to get wet.” Vivi laughed. She had been Blake’s best friend for as long as I could remember.
“Obviously, I haven’t the slightest what his surprise is,” Blake snapped.
Blake turned and poured herself some more eggnog.
“Child, you have got to start drinkin’ more water,” I warned, worried for her.
“Sugar, I’ll drink more water as long as it’s frozen and surrounded by bourbon,” Vivi interrupted with a giggle. “Speakin’ of Bourbon, we need to start plannin’ our Kentucky Derby outfits. It’s gonna be May ‘fore we know it!”
The three of us stood in the kitchen talking till nearly midnight. Beau had been kissed goodnight and I was sure he was dreaming of Santa. It had been such a wonderful evening, my hubby, Sonny, arriving an hour ago and hanging out with Vivi’s husband, Lewis, at the pool table. They had been close friends since their football days at Alabama.
We all saw the flash of lights as a car rolled to a quiet stop just outside, peering out the fogged and icy kitchen window. It was Harry. He had been my son-in-law for so long and I had to admit, seeing him, in his long black cashmere coat and stark white oxford, I had missed him. At least a little, anyway. He carried a thin square flat package, wrapped in old-fashioned brown paper with a red velvet bow. We watched as he made his way up the steps.
Blake ran to the door so he wouldn’t ring the bell and wake Beau.
“Hey stranger, good to see you,” she said reaching up to hug him. I watched them together. I knew they would always share something special. Harry handed the package to Blake.
“I found this and wanted to get it certified as authentic and clean up the sound as best I could. I hope you like it.” Harry smiled warmly at her.
“Oh thanks,” Blake said taking the gift and a bit confused. “You have me curious that’s for sure.”
Blake sat down on the bottom step and opened the strange package.
“Oh Harry, it’s not!” She exclaimed. Blake began to cry happy tears as she held the old record up for me to see. “It’s Grandpa. Calling the 1955 Bama game.”
It was an old original recording of my father who had been the Bama play-by-play announcer back then, calling the Alabama Tennessee game. I began to cry along with my daughter.
“Harry, how ever did you find this?” I asked.
“I was settling the estate of Mel Allen, the old NBC radio announcer. I remembered you had told me they were friends. When I found this among his things I offered to buy it. Turn it over. There’s a surprise.”
Blake turned it over and read aloud. “T’was the Night Before Christmas with Frank Fletcher and Alabama Symphony Orchestra.”
“Oh Harry! I knew Daddy read the Christmas story with the symphony back then but Meridee never could find the recording. I can’t believe it.” The tears were falling now as Blake and I hugged each other. Then we both grabbed Harry in our arms.
“We have to play it now, I want to hear Daddy’s voice,” I said.
Just then Beau came sleepily down the stairs in his footed baby blue pajamas as we all joined together near the tree. “Blake has Mother’s old record player. Here let me put it on,” I smiled.
Blake sat down on the floor near the fireplace, the blaze still strong and flickering. Beau crawled into her lap as Sonny, Vivi and Lewis all gathered around. The record still scratched and popped as it began to turn. The symphony began and there he was—Daddy—the beautiful baritone famous voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide reading the timeless Christmas story.
I caught Blake and Harry looking at each other, both teary-eyed as Harry stood silently toward the back of the room. He blew Blake a kiss as he turned toward the door. He was standing under the mistletoe.
Like all things with Christmas, I always knew that old mistletoe was filled with a little magic.
Are you ready for Christmas?