This is that time of year when local schools sell fruit boxes to raise money for local band programs, sports programs, etc. Mark and I ordered our share of fruit this year from a nephew and kids at church. I love to get the fruit and then share it with others because we can never eat it all before it ruins.This is also the time of year where apples and oranges that I normally see in the grocery store at every visit, take on a more special meaning for me and bring back Christmas memories.
You see, when my sister Amy and I were growing up, we always awoke on Christmas morning to find an apple and orange along with tons of delicious candy in our overflowing stockings. The apple and orange were always at the bottom of the stocking, tucked down in the toe. I know I took those poor pieces of fruit for granted and a lot of times left them stuck in the toe of the stocking. I mean, to me they were pieces of fruit that I saw everyday in our fruit bowl on the counter so they sometimes went neglected on Christmas day and ultimately ended up back in the fruit bowl instead of being devoured along with the Hershey's kisses.
It wasn't until a little later when I was older, that I discovered the reason for the the oranges and apples being in my stockings all those years. I don't think my parents intentionally meant to place the everyday fruit there for a specific message to me and my sister Amy, but years later it always serves as a powerful reminder to me of a simpler time.
My parents would be the first to tell you that their childhoods were not easy ones. Maybe not as hard as other children's, but difficult nonetheless. My dad was one of three children and they moved a lot, often to wherever my grandfather could find a job. Daddy's favorite place of all to live was a house known as the Castleberry Place near the railroad tracks in Eldridge, Alabama. Daddy and my aunt Mary Jane and uncle Landon became favorites of the train engineers and they would throw candy, coins, and fruit to the brothers and sister who would often stand nearby to watch the trains pass.
My mother was one of ten children and knew what it was like to have to share clothing, belongings and to work hard in the fields picking cotton. Treats for a family of ten children were few and far between. To walk to the nearby country store to get a bottle of soda was an event and even after you got the soda, it wasn't entirely your own and had to be shared with siblings.
Apparently in those days, apples and oranges were real treats to have because they were not as readily available as they are now. They usually only made an appearance around this time of the year. Both Momma and Daddy remember getting apples and oranges on Christmas day in their stockings and if they were lucky, they might get a piece or two of peppermint candy.
That tradition was passed down to my sister Amy and I and I don't think it was necessarily intentional. I believe to my parents, those pieces of fruit reminded them of happy Christmas mornings in a day and time where Nintendo or iPhones didn't exist to compete with the simple fruits. A time when you couldn't go to a local Wal-Mart and find a row of every kind of candy imaginable in every flavor imaginable. So, when they had children of their own, they naturally did what they remember had made them happy as a child on Christmas morning.
I haven't been as faithful as my parents about putting an apple and orange in my own children's stockings. I mean, it's hard enough already to fit a bounty of candy and goodies in a cramped stocking and then trying to fit two pieces of fruit is near impossible!
This year however, with our first grandchild coming in May, I want to renew this humble tradition to keep us grounded so that we remember just how blessed we truly are. I plan to tell my grandchild (grandchildren) about their great grandparents and the apples and oranges and hope that the simple fruits will always serve as a reminder to always appreciate God's blessings in their lives and to learn and practice the true art of contentment. I hope it will also serve as a reminder to them to look around and remember those who are less fortunate not just during the Christmas season, but every season.
Just simple everyday fruits that you can purchase at your local grocery store on any given day of the week, but not so long ago those fruits brought much joy and excitement to a lot of little children in rural Alabama and I suspect many other places.
May we never over look the simple joys in life, a warm home, a good job, a cozy bed, a loving church family, loved ones to see at the end of a long work day...joys too numerous to name, but if one were missing, we would give all we owned to have it back. Let us never forget to give thanks to the One who gives us everything we need.
Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!