Two Roads Part 9

1920-treeImage pulled from internet. Note the handmaid ornaments and paper chains.  The house nor the gifts are representative of Neeley’s tree.

Eddie and Neeley packed their family up and moved to the farm her two brothers Albert and Willie had inherited from their father.  For once, it worked out well that Mama Cassie had had a few husbands. The brothers were a few years younger than Neeley and were batching it in the main house on the place, leaving a decent second house on the place vacant.  It was much  better than the place they’d just left and would give the young family a place to live while Eddie looked for a place to rent.  It was a happy time for Neeley.  The boys were happy to pitch in on food so they could enjoy Neeley’s fine cooking, having tired of their own pitiful efforts.  Eddie helped them out when they needed him and found whatever day work he could.  Had the place been big enough, they would have loved to stay forever, but forty acres would barely support one family.  Willie planned to marry in the spring.  His girl’s daddy was setting them up on eighty acres, so his prospects were good.

That was the first Christmas Neeley got to celebrate with family. Eddie cut a cedar tree, which they decorated with chains of colored paper the kids had made and carefully saved from past years.  Foil-covered sweetgum balls added sparkle.  Pictures carefully cut from Christmas card and magazines served as ornaments.  The children were enchanted.

Eddie and Neele made a trip into town the Saturday before Christmas.  Neeley was waiting for the grocer to fill her list when Mrs. Hathaway approached her, handing her a bag of penny candy.  “This is for your kids.  Eddie raised a good crop.  My husband ain’t give up your cabin yet if you folks is havin’ a hard time findin’  somethin’ else.”

Neeley set the candy back on the counter.  ” I already planned to git the younguns Christmas candy, but thanks.  We are doin’ fine.  My brothers made a place for us on their farm.  We got a good tight house.  Eddie’s found a place just down the road to rent.”  She turned to Mr. White, the store owner.  “I am gonna need a bag of them Brazil nuts, seven peppermint sticks, and that big box of raisins.”

Eddie walked up to the counter.  His mouth flew open when he saw the fruit and candy stacked next to the flour, meal, and coffee, the only items they’d agreed to buy.  “Neeley……”

She cut him off, something she’d never done before.  “Pay the man, Eddie!”  She spoke firmly.  “Our kids is gonna have a nice Christmas this year.”

Seeing the look on Mrs. Hathaway’s haughty face was worth every penny as Eddie counted out the cash.