Christmas Memories and Proposals
Dec 04 2017

Christmas Memories and Proposals

By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas

A New Orleans Christmas Eve Tradition that many of us transplants to Redstick recall at this time of the year is the O'Henry short story, "The Gift of the Magi." Phil Johnson, the former longtime Editorial Writer from WWL-TV, would briefly recount this at the end of the news broadcast. 

Year after year, I would still be glued to the tv - long before VCRs, etc. - and cherish the provocative description of love between Della and Jim; the former sold her prized long hair to buy her husband a watch chain, and the latter sold his special inherited watch to buy her elegant combs for her knee-length hair. This still brings goosebumps to me as I reflect on this simple metaphor for the true reason of giving and receiving at Christmas. 

Any other 'Yat from Nawlins would also recall the fun in going out to see Christmas decorations. The highlight of the season eventually came to driving through City Park's "Christmas in the Oaks," as well as going out en masse to check out Al Copeland's then ever growing displays near Elmwood Shopping Center and by his lakefront house. For a while, some of these lights came here to Baton Rouge. 

Midnight Mass at the Most Holy Name of Jesus Church on St. Charles Avenue is another wonderful memory. The large church would be so filled that there was standing room only. And the Christmas trees around the altar that gave such a splendid aroma to the setting is embedded in my olfactory gland memories. 

I surprised my girlfriend with a wedding proposal after Mass in 1982. I brought her to one of my favorite statues to the side that I thought was a Virgin Mary depiction. Later, I learned that the statue was actually of St. Therese of Liseaux, the Little Flower, a favorite saint for both of us! How she certainly showered us with roses then and ever since. We were married the next year in the same church. 

It is neat to think that our only daughter, the oldest child, was proposed to also on Christmas day. She had been away to college in Kansas and came for a visit with us for Christmas of 2004, the year before Katrina. Having lived in Baton Rouge since 1993 but being natives of New Orleans, our tradition was to go to there to visit my parents and her family on Christmas Day. 

We left for New Orleans on Christmas day with our then 21-year-old unmarried daughter, her visiting boyfriend and our two sons. A super cold front had come through Christmas Eve and iced a lot of the roads in the Baton Rouge and the New Orleans areas. Our younger children had a kick looking at all the snow formations that had be formed by the wind, as well as many mini-snowman that had been made. 

Enroute to NO, we actually had to get off of I-10 and take Airline Highway, only to have to return to BR when we realized how bad things had gotten outside of the Kenner area. Despite the disappointment, we did get to experience a neat brief snowstorm that allowed us to take a wonderful belated Christmas picture card of the family. 

It happened that some chemical plant on Airline Highway had a very nice and large "Merry Christmas" sign in front of their business, so we posed in front of it. You could actually see some of the snowflakes in the picture, in addition to the smoke billowing from the plant. Of course, we had to have some spirited snowball fights with the kids as well! 

The day after Christmas, we did get to share the great news of our daughter's wedding announcement with my parents and all of the family, as we finally did get through on the highway to New Orleans! 

Following Hurricane Katrina and other tragedies, it has been certainly hard for many of us who have lost loved ones and cherished memories. In whatever simple manner that may be available to us, let us follow Della and Jim's example of true self-giving and make new memories that will truly endure. It may not be possible to have a "Merry Christmas," yet even without the "Merry," who can ask for more than Christmas - Emmanuel: "God is with us!"

 

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