We love to hear stories of real local parents and people from the Huntsville community, especially around the Christmas and Winter holidays. This year we decided to share our favorites with you. Deano Chaple is the mid-day host on WTAK-FM, and to this day, the smell of oyster rice reminds him of Christmas.
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I am the father of two toddler girls. One is almost four and the other is almost two, so basically we’re running headlong into the whole Christmas with Santa thing at full speed this year.
Not that they hadn’t before, but both are really starting to understand Christmas is a special day. So that brings me to traditions. Traditions our family brings along, new traditions we create. It’s exciting and sometimes a little nerve-wracking trying to enact a tradition and make it stick. Traditions are really a memories you try to put on repeat. I like to think that traditions would be something that came along more naturally, but sometimes you have to get the ball rolling when you’re the adult in the house.
It’s not that my wife and I didn’t have traditions before the kids were born. We’ve been together 19 years now and definitely had our own thing going for a long time before kids came along. Basically it all boiled down to drinking mimosas, all day long, chasing those with sausage pinwheels, and passing out by late afternoon.
Since the kids have come along, we do a lot less drinking. We still have some mimosas – just enough that we remain functioning parents able to engage with our children – but with just enough buzz to tolerate the inevitable meltdowns that will certainly come from one or both of the kids.
My Childhood Traditions
Growing up, my Christmas was big, loud, and usually pretty rowdy. I was the sixth of seven children and Christmas Eve usually meant a party at our house with friends. My older brother’s friends would drink too much, my mom would join in, and my dad would have some fun until he would melt down at the end of the night and yell at people for being drunk. That was followed by a Christmas Day that was filled with hungover siblings and irritated parents. Did I mention there was some underage drinking? Yeah, there was. I’m not endorsing it, just telling it how it was.
That was a tradition, but so were other more positive things that usually involved food. Every Christmas, a few things were requisite: Oyster Rice, Sausage Balls, and Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice. We would eat the sausage balls and drink the OJ after we opened presents. Nat King Cole or Anne Murray Christmas music was always playing, then we made the trip to grandma’s house to meet up with the cousins, open more presents and eat even more food.
Around the Kid’s Table, my siblings would keep everyone entertained or annoyed depending on what side you were looking at. My oldest brother would most certainly open his mouth full of chewed-up food to annoy our cousins and on occasion make them cry. The last time I can clearly remember doing any of this was 1994. My grandparents passed away shortly after and it made getting together harder. There wasn’t the usual urgency to be with family.
Perspective IS Reality
Some of these things I’m sharing with you, you might be thinking, wow, that doesn’t sound very much like great memories. They sound like a family of jerks. We were to some degree. However, it doesn’t change those memories. I look back fondly on them because my family is splintered now and despite the negative or bad things, the not-so-proper or even illegal things, the moments that shine through are mostly pleasant. Or the ones I want to remember resonate because we were all together.
Both of my parents have passed away and all of us kids live scattered about the country. The last time we all got together was 2012 for my mother’s funeral. But as the years passed, my siblings – all except the oldest – started families and have their own traditions. I’m sure they still do things like have sausage balls and oyster rice, or maybe not. They do their own thing, and that’s great.
Everything Old is New Again
My wife and I only started our family a few years back and we’re combing traditions along the way. Mostly involving food of course, but food has a common binding among people. We sit and break bread to remember the good AND bad times, to just chat, and to nourish our bodies. So those holidays are always more special because that’s the one time of year those special recipes come out. Like the Oyster Rice and the sausage balls. When I smell the butter cooking down in the oyster rice, I can almost hear my mother’s voice again telling me not to pick at the cheese. Or I can remember the time my brother Joe got up in the middle of the night and ate all the oysters before mom put them in the rice.
I remember my little hands getting tired making the sausage balls with my dad, but excited because they were SO GOOD and I got to work with my dad.
I remember my parents always lined us up by age, youngest first, and took pictures of us as we walked in the living room on Christmas morning every year, just so they could capture those moments on our faces as we saw wide-eyed the presents spread out before us.
Deano’s Oyster Rice Recipe
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup margarine melted
- ¾ cup celery
- 1 pint oysters, save juice
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¾ cup onions
- 3 cups Uncle Ben Wild Rice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
DIRECTIONS: Sauté onion and celery in butter. Mix with rice. Alternate layers of rice and oysters in a 2 qt. Casserole Dish. Add enough Milk to leftover oyster juice to make ¾ cup. Pour over top. Top with cheese. Top cheese with ¼ cup margarine. Bake at 400 Degrees for 30 minutes.
Kids Bring It All Back Around
Over the years, before the kids, Ann and I made a tradition of watching A Christmas Story on repeat on Christmas Eve and eating a dinner of appetizers only. Followed of course by the Mimosa Christmas I mentioned earlier.
We will do the same thing to a degree, but this year, it will probably involve some Ryan’s Family Review Christmas or Peppa Pig, maybe reading The Night before Christmas. On Christmas Day, we’ll take lots of pictures and watch the kids open presents. I’ll sit back and drink a mimosa and put together toys with way too many pieces. Ann will yell at me to get the kids out of the kitchen while she cooks. The kids will pass out from too much excitement and sugar and eventually so will Ann and I.
We likely won’t see any other family. Lots of distance and differences and we don’t do religion so there won’t be any church. We will have a great time though. We will watch TV, we will cuddle, we will play, and we will laugh, cry, and eat. Good Lord we will eat, and we’ll pick up the traditions as we go. We’ll dust off some old ones and put a little of our own personal shine on them, and ultimately we’ll be together making memories even if just for a day.
This? Is more important than anything.