Christmas in Rick Bragg's household began in an unconventional way. He explains how it started, sometimes in the summertime, with the hunt for the perfect tree.
<p>Hi, I'm Rick Bragg. Christmas, at our house, always began with larceny. Not in a department store, but the Christmas tree. We were not usually stealers. We very much respected other people's property. And, but for some reason, that all came apart around the first or second weekend, December. We'd be riding down the road, and we'd look over and say, Hey, that looks like a good Christmas tree, and sometimes you will be riding by in July and you stake it out, you keep in eye on it. You had to keep an eye on it because you never knew if somebody else was riding by and said hey, that looks like a good Christmas tree too. Sometimes you had to come to a screeching halt. Jump out in the dead at night with a flashlight and just go at it. Throw it in the back of the truck and flee. And I guess we should've felt bad about that. But most of the time when we were stealing Christmas trees, we stole them off the state of Alabama's right of way. And since we all pay taxes to the state of Alabama, really they were kind of our trees, weren't they? Christmas to me, and I know I sound like I'm 90 years old, but Christmas was always Christmas was oranges and tangerines and, and, and, and walnuts and pecans. I remember chocolate covered cherries as being like the most wicked thing that you ate all year. And I remember my mother working very hard to try to make it something special. Christmas dinner, like Thanksgiving was just such largess, you had a, a ham that seemed to like, make the table sway in the middle. Never, never a fancy ham, as in accouterments. I never remember my momma stick little cloves into it or anything like that. It was just cooked. You know just cooked. It was ham, what more do you need? And I remember watching the fat trickle down the sides of it. Standing there being, I miss being two and a half feet tall, because at two and a half feet tall, you're on eye level with a ham. And that's about as good as it's gonna get in this lifetime. Family again, desserts were kind of like, unnecessary because the Christmas dinner was so, massive. [SOUND] But we would have the best pecan pie anybody has ever had anywhere. And I think it's because we firmly believed in the use of Karo Syrup in every meal possible. You know, we ate it for breakfast on biscuits. We were the masters of Kayrup Syrup, and you cant make a good pecan pie without Kayrup Syrup. Christmas always began when my brother Sam, who is three years older than me. I would wake up and he would be standing there at the side of the bed, and I would look up and say. Has he done come. Talking about Santa Claus. Has he done come. Sam's job was to stay up all night long, and listen, for Santa Claus. Has he done come. To me, it's like. Short hand for just happiness.</p>