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Memories of Christmas Past

The following article appeared in the Henderson Daily Dispatch, December 1999.

Memories of Christmas past come out for a visit

I have my laptop today. It's Christmas Eve 1999. My wife and I are visiting with my Dad, James Lewis Reavis, now 84 years old, who has lived in the Reavis Homeplace in Vance County, NC, for nearly 50 years. While he still works 20 hours per week at a farm supply store, goes dancing every Saturday night, and sings in the choir every Sunday morning, Dad doesn't seem to do that well at house cleaning. His wife, Lizzie Fay Howell (granddaughter of Pattie Reavis) who always did the cleaning, passed away in 1990. (Yes, they were third cousins.) My wife and I have just spent 6 hours cleaning the house.

Several things went through my mind today while cleaning the various corners. Because of the Reavis-L, I now have much more appreciation for the heritage of this house, and all the family members who have lived here since about 1789, starting with Samuel Reavis, likely. There have been 210 Christmas celebrations in this house. There have been eight generations of Reavises who have had Christmas dinners, with many children having awaken Christmas to find a present under the Christmas tree. Wonder how many trees there have been put up here? Wonder which rooms they were put in? Wonder how many of the Reavis women and childen have cleaned the same floors I have today? Wonder how many Reavis slaves have done what I did today? Wonder how many weddings there have been here? Wonder how many wakes there have been here? Wonder what the parties were like? Wonder how many meals have been cooked here? Wonder what it was like the first Christmas here in 1789, with Samuel having passed away that October? Wonder how happy the twins of Lewis P. Reavis and his wife Mary were (Arella and Adella) on the Christmas mornings during the mid 1800s? Wonder what kind of toys were played with on these floors? Wonder how many prayers have been said here? Wonder how many angels have watched over the family members here? Wonder how many of them I will see in Heaven one day? If the walls of this house could only talk?

But mostly, I thought about my mother, who cleaned these floors many a time, who alway made sure that I had a happy Christmas, who was a loving wife to my father, who cooked many a meal here. Just like your mothers and grandmothers probably did for you.

Then I remembered the Christmas message that she always told the family every Christmas Day. She said her mother, Lizzie William Reavis Howell, always told the message every Christmas Day. I imagine it was probably a family tradition (message) that has been handed down for many generations, maybe even back to Edward-1. We continue to tell the message in our household every Christmas. Here it is:
"There's many a happy child today, but there's also many a sad one. Also, there's a lot of people who are here this Christmas who will not be here next Christmas." Merry Christmas 1999

Guest Columnist: David Reavis
David Reavis is a Henderson native who now lives in Raleigh

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