Almost a Norman Rockwell happy time

Published 11:00 am Saturday, December 17, 2022

By Steve Stricker


In my youth, Christmas, Christ’s birth, the world was at peace and the last few days before Santa slowed like Gert’s spoon sinking in a jar of Mr. Bill’s Southern Missouri honey.

Email newsletter signup

Rarely did we have snow in Charleston a few miles from the Mississippi River. When we did it was wonderful, and Gert made snow ice cream.

Santa anticipation became unbearable when Monsignor Schmidt placed the large crèche on St. Henry’s altar with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men, animals, huge live Christmas trees bedecked with blue lights, and that fourth candle on the Advent Wreath was lit.

Christmas trees in our house across the street from St. Henry’s convent, rectory, grade, high school, church and playground, were modest, but I can still smell that live tree fragrance. I can see the large lights, the glass tubed ones that bubbled, opaque glass ornaments that broke if dropped, and the heavy “icicles,” probably made of lead, that my three older sisters and me helped put on.

I especially recall when daddy lifted me to place the plastic silver angel on top, which I still have and use.

With tree decorated it was exciting to get the attic box containing the manger my granddaddy Stricker made from roof shingles (he immigrated from Munster, Germany in the late 1800’s, founded first Ford and John Deere Dealerships in Charleston) which we gently placed on white cotton “snow” atop our 21” TV next to the tree, carefully unwrapping grandaddy’s manger figures from newspaper which I still have, and gleefully placing each in their proper place.

As we did all this, my sisters played Christmas songs on their portable 45 record player. Gert popped corn in bacon grease in a deep cast iron skillet with lid, shaking it until the corn was fully popped.

We drank grape juice, ate popcorn, and joyfully decorated tree and house. Daddy put brightly colored lights around our front door, Gert hung a real wreath, and I stood outside and stared until I nearly froze.

Those days living at home, attending school across the street taught by Priests, Ursuline Sisters, altar server, choir first grade through high school, finally having beautiful ’57 Chevy Belair passed down to me from my sisters, captain of our basketball team, dating Lee from public high school – was a swell, almost, Norman Rockwell happy time.

Merry Christmas y’all, Rest In Peace hero Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach, wishing you a Christmas miracle, and Go Rebels!

Steve is an Oxford resident, worked on Campus, received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, is an LPC, NCC, and can be reached at