PERRY — There was a time when Christmas morning came without batteries.
It came without a hundred bright colors and a thousand moving parts. There were no accessories or extended warranties. Gigabytes meant giggles and bites of hard candy.
The symmetry of Christmas came wrapped in simplicity. Folks didn’t have much to give, so they gave what they could. Folks didn’t expect to be lavished with gifts, so they were content with whatever they got.
Like many of you, T.F. and Agnes Hardy grew up in those yesteryears. T.F. is 90 years old. Agnes, his wife of 63 years, is 87 and proud of it.
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As children of the rural South in the 1920s, there was no frenetic rush of holiday shopping, with door-buster sales and long lines at the cash register.
There were no Wal-Marts, only walnuts. Santa always left a few of those in the stockings. Crunch time.
And what would Christmas be without oranges? Their scent evokes a strong memory. Merry Citrus.
Garrison Keillor, one of America’s most gifted storytellers, once said: “A big orange and some fresh pine boughs and ‘Silent Night’ are all I need, and cookies, of course. They are the strings that, when I pull on them, I pull up the complete glittering storybook Christmases of my childhood.”
Agnes was raised in Godfrey, a small community in Morgan County about 11 miles north of Eatonton. Traditions always werefollowed on Christmas Eve.
“We would go out in the woods and cut our tree,” she said. “We decorated it with green and gold paper.’’
There was no string of lights on the tree. Electricity didn’t reach that far out in the country until she was 14 years old.
Her parents, Paul and Sally Lawrence, would shop in Milledgeville on Christmas Eve. The next morning, the children were not allowed to see what Santa Claus had brought until her brother, Paul Jr., built a fire in the fireplace.
She got some marbles one year. The most special Christmas was when she got a baby doll with a china face and a body made out of cloth. Her aunt sewed her doll clothes.
Her father killed a hog before Christmas, so there was plenty of food from the farm. Her mother would bake cakes, and Agnes usually found a way to snatch some icing from the bottom.
T.F., which stands for Terrell Franklin, grew up near Fort Valley, one of 12 children of Thomas Franklin Hardy and his wife, Bertha. (Only eight of the children lived to adulthood.)
They moved to Perry in the 1930s. T.F. and Agnes still live in the old home place on Swift Avenue.
He remembers getting marbles, too. And a baseball glove. And, one year, a red wagon.
His mother would buy a 48-pound flour sack and have enough material to make him a shirt and a dress for a sister.
A pair of shoes had to get good mileage.
“My mother would always tell me to walk lightly,’’ Agnes said. “Those shoes had to get me through the winter.’’
Material things never mattered much, even at Christmas. They were appreciative of whatever they got.
“We didn’t realize we were poor,’’ T.F. said. “We had what we needed.’’
Part of me wishes Christmas could return to being simple like that.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.