Making new memories from old traditions

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, December 1, 2015

As the calendar flips to December our attention shifts solely on Christmas and all the wonderful memories that special time of the year holds.

It’s especially an exciting time for children as they count down the days, hours and minutes until that jolly old elf from the North Pole launches his worldwide tour on the night of Dec. 24.

Sixty years ago I was the same age of my now two-year-old grandson, Brody. Watching his eyes light up over the past few weeks at the mention of Santa Claus causes the floodgates to open with memories of my childhood.

Back in the day it was the Bryant family tradition to make the trip to Roanoke Rapids on Dec. 24 for a Christmas celebration at my grandmother’s house. I never knew my granddaddy Bryant since he and my grandmother divorced long before I was born. She had remarried Theodore Brown….the grandchildren only knew him as Pop Brown.

Pop was a simple, hard-working man who was the caretaker at Rosemary Baptist Church. He and my grandmother lived in a two-story house on the church property, one block off Roanoke Avenue.

Back then it was safe for a child to visit the many stores located along the Avenue. Leading up to Christmas it was a thrill to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday in such stores as McCrory’s Dime Store and Woolworths. They were on opposite corners of the Avenue and 10th Street. One block away was Roses; the first big department store I can remember visiting.

But back to the Christmas Eve story. I remember a big meal followed by Pop Brown beckoning all the grandchildren to sit on the floor near his chair from where he would read the story from the Bible concerning the birth of Jesus. My father would later continue that tradition once the Christmas Eve gathering of the Bryants shifted to our home in Northampton County.

After Pop Brown finished the story, the adults would begin the task of unwrapping what seemed to me as a child as a mountain of gifts. Meanwhile, Pop Brown would give each grandchild a bag containing an apple, an orange, a giant candy cane and other pieces of smaller hard candy. I can’t speak for the other grandchildren, but I thought that was the best gift ever!

On the trip home from Roanoke Rapids, my older sister (Cindy), younger brother (Tommy) and I would have our faces pressed to the windows of the car looking for any sign of Santa Claus. Daddy would always find something in the sky to hold our attention and once we arrived home we quickly went to bed in anticipation of Santa’s arrival.

On Christmas morning, three wild-eyed children on Pinetops Road would awaken and rush into the living room to see what gifts Santa had left.

Now, decades later, I have the opportunity – God willing – to have those special memories live on in the eyes and mind of my grandson. Deborah and I have planned to start a new Christmas tradition….that of making an early morning trip to Colerain on Dec. 25 to see Brody’s face light up after he scans a couch full of gifts from Santa; and to hear his “oohs” and “aahs” as he unwraps gifts. That morning will again open up the floodgates of Christmases past, to include those special times when my daughter, Danielle, was a child.

Here’s hoping that all of you are also able to make some special Christmas memories of your own.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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