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A family Christmas

“I’ll be home for Christmas” are words that summarize the feelings felt by those of us who look forward to reuniting with family members after missing their company for long periods of time.

I won’t forget the first Christmas I missed away from my family. In December 1953, I was an Air Force recruit undergoing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tex. Cigarettes, soft drinks and candy bars were off limits plus we recruits were confined to the base. The highlights of the day were a letter and small gift box I received from home and a baked ham and cornbread dressing lunch in the chow hall.

The next Christmas I was away from home again stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. My thoughts were moving in a positive direction, however. I was wearing two stripes and spent the day setting pins for a tournament at the base bowling alley. That night, I wrote a love letter to my soon-to-be wife.

In December 1955, Geanell and I were married and living in a modest off-base cottage in Anchorage. We decorated our first Christmas tree and exchanged gifts. We splurged on our small budget by buying Geanell a warm coat, played in two feet of snow and played cards with our neighbors.

Four generations ago, Geanell’s mother’s family began a tradition of hosting a Christmas dinner for the Griffins. The festive event was held on Christmas Eve for a number of years. Later, it was moved to the third Saturday in December and expanded to include nieces, nephews and second cousins. Grandchildren are currently serving as hosts and hostesses.

Last Saturday, the Griffins met in Hartselle at the home of Jeff and Pam Gray (niece) on Sunset Drive. Geanell served as co-hostess. There were 23 guests. They came from Birmingham, Mobile, Theodore, Wedowee, Huntsville and Decatur. The noon meal consisted of smoked turkey, baked ham, cornbread dressing, an assortment of vegetable and salad sides and baked desserts.