My “Daddy” is Jack Harville Barker and he is one hell of a man in my book and the Lord’s Book, and this book.

Daddy was kinda wild like me yet different in more ways than 1…… Football star, skipped grades in school, son of Ralph Barker, the Man, and long, tall and handsome, Red-headed, money-making, hard-working, gamblin’ drinker that liked a good fight and fifth with a 4 in the floor fast car, and all the women that came along w/ this kind guy.

Dad owned his own car dealership @ 19, then new car dealership @ 21, and got saved in a tent at 20-something, then left Savannah to follow the personal calling to be a pastor & leave the wild life 2 the wild…mainly ’cause Momma said she’d had enough. So, Dad decided he had 2 and sold out of his businesses and entered Bethel College & the Ministry, and went on2 recieve his  Master’s of Theology from prestigious Princeton University.

As all young kids do, I was in awe of my dad. He towered over the family — we were all relatively short — and he as a giant 6′, 200+ pound figure, that was kinda, very strict.

My Dad, loved us all, and Mom of course the most, so, if you wanted to get to Dad’s soft side, you went thru Momma…”Let me talk 2 him about it Jayboy, now come here & let me give u a hug and it’ll be allrite.”

As a child, I tried always to please Dad but my standards of pleasing him lessened to a level of “not getting in trouble” as I grew older.I received many Daddy whoopings and deserved most of them, the others were just for good measure.Dad loved the church & his work and loved Mom and we were glad 2 see that kinda love, especially the part of him loving Mom.

We didn’t quite understand the church love part, but we went along with it and endured a life of being uprooted every 3 or 4 years. It didn’t really have a pattern, just constant heartache & hardship & often dread of the day because of the new kid in town syndrome or having 2 leave after fighting battles daily 2 fit in, just when you found a friend. With every move to a new town Dad would sit us down & tell us of the “good news” and soon we would packing and unpacking.

Dad was very smart and made a great pastor and a leader in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He headed the Camp Clark Williamson Church Camp, Director of the Board of Trustees @ Bethel, and finally head of the Board of Missions for the entire denomination, or in other words, the Pope of the CP’s.

This Christmas, I will see Dad on Christmas nite @ Judie’s house. Christmas is just not the same w/ our family now, like it was w/ Daddy’s family. When we were young, Dad took us on a much anticipated Christmas Eve trip to Savannah from where ever we lived, to his Dad’s house for the grandest Christmas Celebration, I, as a child had even seen, and family wise it is unmatched 2 this day.

Dad always held Communion Service @ whatever church he was pastoring at that time, then we would load up in his Ford of some LTD level and sing our way to Savannah. We were always running late and Daddy ran old days fast to get 2 his Dad’s for Christmas Eve.

No cell phones at this time meant the waiting crowd of relatives would always rejoice when we pulled in the drive, and cousins would come running out to greet us. “We’ve been waiting on you,” Mark Alexander, my closest 1st cousin would say and we would go over to the side garage and get a cold baby 6 oz Coke in the bottle and head inside so, so happy.

Daddy had sisters, Helen, Willie, & Dot from Momma Vera, Pa Paw’s 1st wife, and Dad had brothers Rick & Joe and sister Lois Anne for Pa Paw’s second wife, Lois. Characters like Max Alexander, Granville Hinton, & Faye Hazen Farris, Willie Hinton, Dorothy Farris were some fun folks @ Christmas at “Big Daddy’s” house.

Picture this, Big Daddy sitting in his over sized leather chair, grinning that Ralph Barker grin that was nearly Elvis like. All his children now grown by his 1st wife and all his children by his second in their teens and down, filled the house w/kids and grand-kids of all ages. The house roared w/ loud talkers, laughter, and kids running in & out, fireworks going off and folks eating the oysters & crab dip laid out in large portions and refilled by servants. Yes, real servants, and hired cooks, and it was the greatest display of plenty, I have ever experienced 2 this day, in our family.

All the grown men and some teens were sneaking a little Christmas cheer from the old bottle in the car, Willie would be hollering, “use ur inside voice, Robert,” Aunt Dot would be telling her to hush & they would holler in a good way at each other, me and Mark would go wild w/ fireworks and finally the call would come out that dinner was ready and Daddy or Ricky would pray and all was good on earth for me at that moment. My Dad & his Dad made sure of that.

Dinner had the Big Table, and the table by the big table and your status was determined by how close you got 2 sit 2 PaPaw. I was of course @ the kids table. PaPaw always cut a 7 yr old country ham, from his smoke house and had Prime Rib for dinner accompanied by the finest desserts ever made. Lois was a great cook and her maid/cooks/servants were even more skilled, and African American.

The Christmas tree w/ all the presents was located in the living room which also served as the kids dining room, so 1/2 the time we were looking for the present that had our name on it and the other 1/2 of dinner telling a cousin what we had asked for from “Santa.”  We all dressed up in good, if not Sunday clothes for boys & Christmas dresses for the girls. It’s a site I will never forget or match. But I wish I could & people could value family occasions like we used 2…a Christmas wish.

After boiled custard and dessert, everyone gathered in the den and usually everyone would try to claim a good seat, the couch, but we all kinda sat in family groups and a few hovered near PaPaw’s chair, just 2 B close to this Great Man. The older girls would get to hand out the packages and all were handed out before we started opening.

A story went w/ each gift to PaPaw from whoever gave it, hoping he would like their gift the best. I would often sit on his footstool and help him open his endless stream of silk pajamas, belts, shorts and hats and ties, that more often than not were never worn or even had the tag taken off them. He was hard to buy for and he liked what he liked so he always acted like he loved all the gifts just because they were gifts. But he liked it more if you liked what he had Lois buy for you and then he would get up and pull out those Christmas envelopes always brimming w/ more cash each yr, and go to each of his children, my dad included and got a hug from all of them and a big thank you for the undisclosed bountiful gift. Each yr amazement & joy glowed on Daddy’s face and each of his siblings, as they opened that Christmas envelope. As a little kid, this kind of charity and that much money was a child’s fortune, and it always covered Dad’s cost  for me & my sisters’ “Santa.”

We all are grown now and we don’t go to PaPaw’s for Christmas anymore. My Big Sister is going to Knoxville to be with her son and grandson, and daughter & granddaughters.  And my Dad is remarried and he comes to Judie’s on Christmas Nite, and me and my family join her & him and this yr it seems like the joy of Christmas is at an all time low, so I fight the blues of Christmas and I wonder, has my Christmas Spirit gone, so I relearn what I already no.

Granddad, was the happiest @ his Christmas gathering, with all “his” kids and all his food and all his gifts and I realize I must, I must, I must, give my children & grandchildren this gift and make memories for them, so that they 2 will understand why I do these Christmas things:

1) Have a family Christmas plan and invite all to gather.

2) Give the gift of love & conversation and bond over a meal.

3) EAT TOGETHER — The plenty of your life is in the food u feed ur family. Shall we feed all that’s good or focus on and feed all that is not good. I choose 2 feed the Good in Christmas and my life.

Christmas w/o Momma is sad & Christmas w/ Dad ain’t bad, but as for me & mine, Jessica, Christen, Ashley, & Nick we still love to come 2 gather and usually spend Christmas Eve at Papa Jay’s House and Santa Claus comes down the chimney here.

So even tho we tried this yr, Jessica and my 4 dear grandbabies will stay in Mentor, Ohio, because times are hard & I can’t help w/ transport cost 2 get them here. Christen and her new baby will spend the night w/ Enzi @ their house, 2 make a memory for her family, and many other folks and families will be apart from other family one way or another.

This yr, this inevitable separation has hit me harder than usual and I have a burning desire to try to correct it, somehow and make Christmas like it used 2 B. But that can never b, so when I seek the Spirit of Christmas this yr, I tricycled back in time to a place that was perfect…PaPaw’s House… my mind.

And I can see it plain as day and I can hear the lovely, loud conversation quieten for “Santa’s call” that came magically over the high tech TV of the 60’s & 70’s, and all the little ones would huddle in front of the TV and listen to Santa tell us how good we’d been that yr and how all our wishes would come true in the morning, if we minded our parents tonite and went to bed when they told us 2, Santa would say, from a phone, next door. And I can remember the day I became the voice on that TV and I was so proud to be Santa’s voice.

So now Old Time Christmas lies in my lap. It is up 2 me to deliver a feeling more special than any other time of yr for my young family of families.

It is time for me 2 quit wishing for the way it used 2 B and start being the way I was taught 2 B by my Dad & my Granddad. Christmas is no longer about my lost loved ones and the crumbling of family gatherings but all about me, in a different way.

If I believe so in Christmas of Old, then I must be like my Dad & Grand Pa & be the Man. One Hell of a Man. And make my happiness great by being a real Grand Pa and a happy Dad, no matter what. So I thought 2 myself who do I no that still pulls off a giant, everybody at the house Christmas? And immediately, the Williams in Milan came 2 mind so I called Barbara 2 see when they were all going 2 be @ her & Dr. Phil’s house so I could come see that old time Christmas I knew existed still.

Barbara answered my midday call and we chatted hellos & how are u’s and then I asked her, Ms. Barbara, “when is everybody coming in,” and she sighed & hesitated and in her sweet way she said, “Jay, they are not all gonna be here this yr.” Phillip and a few other grandchildren were gonna be w/ their mates family and miles & time do their thing in crumbling family gatherings.

“Herbert & most will be here tomorrow after noon (Dec. 23) but Jay I think it makes them kind of sad now since Phil died.” And I felt her pain and more. We all have pain but we all also have the Old Christmas Spirit in us 2. I encouraged her 2 let the Spoken Word help heal them and thru sharing memories.

This Christmas I will feed the Old Time Christmas Spirit in me and be there for my family as Papa Jay, happiest when I see you like what I gave you and I pray this Day, the way my Daddy taught, that U 2 will gather w/ ur family and eat together and laugh & talk & drink Coca Cola, a a little nip from the bottle in car or not, and show those in your world that big ole heart you got and that Elvis smile you save for the best of times.

Ain’t nuttin perfect but the Christmas Spirit dam near is, so find it in your memory bank and cash a check from Christmas Past and love it 2day…

That’s what I’m gonna do cause that’s the only check I can write that I have funds for…right now. I am giving a lot of hugs for Christmas this yr cause thats what I have plenty of and they make everything better.

Got my present rite here, so come get your hug and my gift of Christmas Spirit, if u want 2. Cause I got plenty!

PaPaw’s 7 yr old ham recipe —

Buy a ham, salt and smoke it, let it hang for 7 yrs in a dark place, cut down at Christmas, slice & fry & serve. Try that if you got time (like at least 7 yrs). So perfectly salty that Coca Cola in the 6 oz bottle is recommended for the after thrill of thirst.

I wish 4  u all the happiest of Christmases and that old time feeling….if only in ur memory of the way it used 2 b and the way it outta b again….in a perfect world….and in our imperfect family.