Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Drum Goes Dead

The Drum Goes Dead is a Christmas book, my very favorite. It is by Bess Streeter Aldrich, author of Miss Bishop. It takes place during The Depression and was published in 1937. 

Aldrich uses Mr. Lanning, a local banker, to unfold the story about the town's stalwart characters who have endured years of financial problems. One by one the citizens come into the bank for modest withdrawals on Christmas Eve. 

Mr. Lanning, with worries of his own, asks them:

"What was the best Christmas you ever had?"

--One 94-year old man remembers the Christmas his "pappy come home from the Far West. One of the 'forty-niners', he was."

--Another remembers Christmas Eve in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt, thinking of home the whole time.

--An elderly lady knew that the best Christmas was "Just any of them, I guess, when the children were at home." [A crying break here for this blogging mother.]

--Professor Shelhorn, always learning and ready to pass on new knowledge to Mr. Lanning, whether he's in the mood for it or not, quotes a line that I later learn is ancient (1526), from an essay by Nicholas Breton in Fantastickes:

"The maskers and the mummers make the merry sport

But if they lose their money, their drum goes dead."

--As the Professor finishes his banking transaction he says, "It takes a great deal of spirit and courage to beat away as though nothing had happened, does it not?"

Right up front I'll say, it sure is more fun to have money at Christmas than not. Of course, this begs the question, "How much money is enough money?" What would be affluence to me is poverty to others and what is poverty to me is affluence to much of the world's population.

Often we just feel poor at Christmas.

R.H. and I have had lean Christmases and bountiful ones. One lean Christmas happened when we had moved back to Tennessee in 1981 from having spent three years in Florida. Short story is that we lost our nursery business in Florida with the property it sat on and our house.

That Christmas I had $35 to spend, most of which went on helping Santa fill four stockings. There was enough money left for a gift for Zack and Defee, plastic shoes. That's right, Santa Claus brought the two little brothers plastic shoes on rollers from K-Mart. 

But hey, what did they know? As far as they were concerned, it was great getting up to find plastic shoes under the Christmas tree.

Well, maybe not so great. Look at Zack's face. I think he suspects that there is supposed to be more than a plastic shoe. Defee? He's not fretting.

Here are R.H. Jr. (Gurn) and Christy that lean Christmas of 1982:

They're not exactly smiling are they, but they were such sweet sports anyway. R.H. and I probably weren't smiling too much either because every parent wants to give their kids a good Christmas. 

But we were happy to be back in Tennessee with its hills and country music and cold weather. We had a strong faith that God would provide. We had a Christmas tree, we had candles and Christmas carols, and we had good food. Most important of all, we had each other. 

If you're having a lean December, and most of us have them at one time or other, join me in beating our drums. I think I'm hearing the Little Drummer Boy rat-a-tat-tating away myself.

And I'm smiling, for heaven's sake!

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