Cane Creek

Charity begins at home. It shouldn’t end there, but it’s a good place to start. It’s what my mom and dad taught me. It’s what’s at the heart of our annual Charity issue.

Growing up, it’s a great thing to be able to admire your parents. So many memories from my childhood stand out around the holidays.

Like the time an acquaintance of my mom’s showed up at our door after their house burned. My mom was the one who INSTANTLY mobilized the community—finding a place for them to stay, and clothes and shoes, and coats, and deodorant and toothpaste and even finding out what Christmas presents had burned under their tree, so she could replace them.

Or the time we went to Jackson County as part of St. Camillus’s outreach program. I’ll never forget meeting Ceil and Cody, who lived in a camper (not a mobile home, just a camper) with a potbellied stove in the center. Batman was playing on the black and white television next to it. I remember Cody steering me out of the way of that stove so my down jacket wouldn’t catch fire. I remember that the bulk of the holiday “cuisine” we brought them was a case of baby food—because that’s all Ceil could eat. She’d had most of her digestive system removed as part of her cancer treatment. I thought she looked about 75, but I found out on the way home she was 46 years old.

I came home filled with holiday spirit—really grateful and thankful— primarily grateful and thankful that I wasn’t them. We were learning that terrible lesson so many mountain children do: that no matter how bad you have it, there will always be someone less fortunate.

But one of the most vivid memories I have is the Christmas my dad worked on Cane Creek, driving a back dump for Richland Coal. His job was much what the title suggests, consisting of backing up this multi-ton piece of machinery to within an inch of a 100-foot highwall and dumping the dirt over the side. He was (and still is) deathly afraid of heights, but he did it every night (second shift), for more years than I can count. His “coffee breaks” consisted of crawling off into a bulldozer track where he could throw up from sheer terror with some degree of privacy.

And every day, on his way up to the deadlift, he’d pass this little shack—the kind you’d see in a Shelby Lee Adams photograph—a gang of kids and dogs in the yard, a car up on blocks in the yard, a washer and a sofa on the porch.

He started to get worried as the holidays got closer and he didn’t see a Christmas tree, and he decided he’d be Santa that year.

He came home and told us what he remembered about the kids—how old they might be, what size they might be. Then we all went shopping. I picked out things for the girls, my brother for the boys. I remember some red mittens, a doll or two, and a remote control car. Even chew toys for the dogs.

We really got into it.

I eagerly anticipated showing up on their doorstep with all this loot—how they’d tear into these packages, thanking us profusely. It’d be great. The best Christmas ever.

Finally, I thought, I had a handle on what the Sisters of Divine Providence had been telling us all along. THIS was what it was all about.

But that wasn’t what my dad had in mind. We came home. We wrapped up all the presents. My mom added in container after container of her beautiful holiday cooking—her loaves of braided challah, country ham, a turkey, cranberry salad, homemade apple butter...

My dad put it all in a big box. He drove up to these people’s house—alone—in the dead of night, Christmas week (hoping not to get shot or dogbit), and left it all on their porch.

The only way we know that they got their presents was that he saw them wearing the clothes and playing with the toys the following week.

My dad, of course, had been poor. Most of his life. And he knew a little something about charity. His side of the family had spent their entire lives avoiding it—along with the condescension that often accompanies it as the price of admission.

So he knew that how you give is as important as what you give.
You give in a way that’s right for the recipients. You give in a way that acknowledges and preserves their dignity.

Reprinted, Ace, November 1999.

The More You Know

New Movie: Alexander Payne's Sideways (the guy who brought you Citizen Ruth, Election, and About Schmidt) is finally in town at the Kentucky.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch? According to an LFUCG press release, "the city will be offering 'free' carriage rides on: Saturday, Nov. 27, Sunday, Nov. 28, and Tuesday, Nov. 30, as well as each Tuesday and Friday night through December 17. Times will be from 7-10 pm and the pick-up location will be on Limestone Street at Phoenix Park." The "free" arrived in quotation marks, and since nothing in life is "free," ask before you mount up.

Books to Read: What's the Matter with Kansas by Thomas Frank; Hip: The History, by New York Times writer John Leland.

On TV, after you've OD'd on holiday fare, Nip/Tuck is repeating Season 1 and 2 on Fox at 10 on Sundays. Or you can try the new Sunday night Showtime series, Huff, about a psychiatrist and his family (worth catching for Blythe Danner's performance as his mother; try to ignore Oliver Platt's hamming as his buddy and the heretofore weak Greek Chorus device of the homeless Hungarian fiddler...it's not “HBO Sundays,” for those in withdrawal from Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, or the end of Sex & the City…more like Methadone).

And in keeping with the drug theme, Eli Lilly, the folks who brought you Prozac, have a new anti-depressant on the market, Cymbalta. Controversy abounds, and the holidays always seems an appropriate time to share pharmaceutical news.

Wish Lists for Readers? Can’t bear to send the loved ones out for another sweater you’ll return? At Amazon.com you can add everything from DVDs to books to CDs to your Wish List…Your friends can look it up and then go to a LOCAL retail outlet to purchase it for you—thereby getting you what you want, AND keeping your holiday dollars in the bluegrass economy. n

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Mail: 486 West Second St , Lexington, Ky 40507


This Little Light

Lexington woman, Beatrice Martin, who's battling cancer, donated her Colorado blue spruce to the city to place in Triangle Park as Lexington's official Christmas tree. It will be decorated by the Division of Parks and Recreation and the lights will be turned on in a tree-lighting ceremony starting at 5:45pm, Friday, November 26.

Info, 859.258.3100.

Deadline Extension

Community Arts Development Project

Grant extended to Wednesday, December 1, 5pm at the LACC.

Holiday Hiatus

Most Urban County Government offices will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, November 25, and Friday, November 26.

There will be no garbage, recycling or yard waste collection on either day. Residents with Thursday and Friday collection days will have their recycling and yard waste picked up on Wednesday, November 24.

Double-wrap those turkey carcasses, padlock the Herbies, and pray for cold weather if you don't want to drive the neighborhood dogs wild.

To submit an advocacy/activism activity or event for Quickies, email rkirkland@aceweekly.com, or editor@aceweekly.com.

To submit an advocacy/activism activity or event for Quickies, email rkirkland@aceweekly.com, or editor@aceweekly.com.