Christmas Child Abuse

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s been said that truth is found somewhere between what you believe and what I believe.  Perhaps sometimes it is, but not always.  The following is about perceived Christmas child abuse inflicted upon me – and that which I inflicted upon my own children.  

My paternal grandparents lived in Carthage, MS, located just over fifty miles northeast of our home in Jackson.  We made that trip at least one a month.

That traumatic year I must have been around four, for at the time, I was still an only child.  It was Christmas time.  Dad had several reason to make that Christmas Eve trip:  He wanted to be with his parents;  It was his and mom’s wedding anniversary;  He had a couple of days off from work;  and did I say that he wanted to be with his parents for Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.

I didn’t understand.  My four year old focus was not on Dad’s desires, but upon my NEEDS.  How would Santa KNOW where I was Christmas Eve Night?  Could anyone GUARANTEE that the great bearer of gifts would REALLY find me when I was so far from home?  My Christmas cheer was kaput, replaced with dread, fear, and worry.  Yes, I felt, well, abused

Not to leave you dangling, Santa DID find me that night far from home, so as they say, all was well because it ended well.  Now, let’s fast forward around thirty years, to when I was a father.

Our family was a member of a rather ‘fundamentalist’ church at the time.  It would seem that the emphasis was more on the ‘thou shalt nots’ than on the ‘thou shalts.’  Our family strived to get with and be with the program.  Our thinking, colored by what we were now learning, was strictly ‘accent the spiritual, eliminate the secular.’  And Christmas was rife with secular, carnal, humanistic influence.  Just to say “Put Christ back into Christmas,” was not enough… that year we strove to not only put Him first, but also make Him the ONLY persona representing Christmas.

Frosty was out, as well as the Grinch, Tiny Tim, Rudolph, and of course, the jolly ole usurper of the true Christmas… the jolly ole elf himself… Santa!

I remember that our only concession was a small tree, but it remained undecorated, and of course, unlighted… no snow, no tinsel, no popcorn… nothing.  But under the tree, we placed a large nativity set! 

Carol and I gave the kids presents of course, but it was understood that they were from us, not some fat guy in a red suit.  He didn’t visit our home that year. 

The kids had a difficult time understanding this, even though there was no open rebellion.  But I’m sure they were thinking, “What are you folks thinking?  We’re not Jewish, or Jehovah Witnesses… we’re supposed to be THE Christians in town, and y’all are locking a Merry Christmas out of our home!” 

Yes, I’m sure they felt, well, abused

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FAIRCHILD FAMILY HISTORY

Yours truly with my older cousin Mack Fairchild and Grandpa Pat Fairchild

   The Fairchild’s of my family descended from five Fairchild brother’s who came to Mississippi in the early 1800s from the Carolinas.

    We’re all a blending of two families.  In my case, that’s Murphy and Fairchild.  My mother was born to Patrick Henry and Emma Fairchild

   One of those brothers was Robert Fairchild, and the first record of him being in MS comes from land records dated 1820.  After moving around in the state for a bit, they mostly settled in the Jones County area.  One of Robert Fairchild’s children was William H. Fairchild, (1810-1864).  The date of his death is significant.

    William had a son, James Amous Fairchild (12/14/1850 to 8/23/1913).  He was an interesting fellow.  He was successful, and was at one time the mayor of Moselle, MS in Jones County.  His ‘quirk’ in life was that he took (shall we say) family to the extreme!  

     His young wife had a sister, and the sister-in-law’s husband was tragically killed.  James had built a ‘dog-trot’ for he and his wife and their growing family.  A dog-trot was like one huge long rectangular floor, with two rectangular ‘living areas’ with an open breezeway/walk-through in the middle, and all covered by one large roof.  The idea was that one side could be the messy family area, and the other the cleaner and cooler entertaining area.  The sister-in law moved in with them after William had converted one side for her.  The 3 lived there until the day they all died… and William raised 7 children with his wife… and 3 with his wife’s sister, all happily under one roof!  No, they weren’t Mormon, but Southern Baptist. One of the seven was Patrick Henry Fairchild, my mother’s railroading father!  As a small child, I was taken to see this original homestead while it was still standing.   

   If that were not interesting enough, let’s go back to the son of one of the 5 ‘original’ Fairchild’s… William H., the one who I said his date of death was significant.  It was during the years of the Civil War.

   All of this happened in Jones County, MS., and Jones County is noted as being a fairly singular ‘hotbed’ of RESISTANCE to the Southern Confederacy.  A large portion of the county, mainly due to economic reasons, rebelled against the new Confederate authority.  Most of this rebellion came from the poor working class, who were heavily, and unfairly taxed by the Confederate authorities.  The state had passed what was known as the ‘Twenty Rule,’ meaning that for every 20 slaves a land owner had, one member of his family was exempt from military service.  The poor had a saying for this, “It’s a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s battle.”  

   A fellow by the name of Newton Knight rose up in open rebellion against the Confederacy.

He organized a rag-tag bunch of poor farmers and Confederate deserters, and waged all out war on the southern troops.  In 1916 a movie was released about this unique piece of Mississippi history, entitled THE FREE STATE OF JONES, starring Matthew McConaughey. See photo above.  It bombed at the box-office, only making back 1/2 of the production costs.

    Now, back to my ancestor’s.  William H. was appointed by the Confederates as a dreaded tax-collector.  Recorded show that on the same date in 1864, not only was he murdered, but also the Sheriff of Jones County.  We don’t know if they were together at the time, but it makes sense to think that they must have been.  It’s also assumed that Newton Knight was behind it.

   So there.  That’s my newly discovered little piece of family history that you probably never saw in the movie or read in the book!  

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Thanks David, for the Little Fox.

© 2019 Bill Murphy

      Carol and I host a small home-group Bible study on Thursday nights.  Recently our topic was Christian influence.  Our question was, who in your past was a positive, Christian influence in your life?  Not wanting to name someone from the ‘standard list,’ such as a great-uncle, grandmother, or a Bible hero, I went back to the 1950s, to a school and neighborhood pal, David Walker.  Mom and Dad taught me to always say thank you, and this thank you David, is long overdue!

    Scripture tells us that it’s the little foxes that spoil the grapes.  It’s also little items that also speak positive volumes of truth.

    Some wear their Christianity like a jacket, when it’s ‘needed.’  Not David.  He always kept his ‘jacket’ on.  But it was NEVER worn in a boastful or self-righteous manner.  Far from it!  The ‘little fox’ I best remember about David was the notebook he carried to and from school at Enochs Junior High. Written in his own hand across the front were the words JESUS SAVES. He carried it quietly, yet purposefully, like a traveling billboard, proclaiming that profound and fantastic truth to all who saw it. David was never ashamed to be linked with our Savior.

    I believe he went to Griffith (Baptist) Church.  I went to Grace (Methodist).  My grandparents on mother’s side were Baptist, and Methodist on dad’s.  A few times, questions of ‘doctrine’ reared their ugly heads.  But little things, like David’s calm faith, and his willingness/eagerness to carry that notebook to school, did wonders to chop off the heads of those ugly questions.  

     I’d already given my heart to Jesus years before.  But David, and that blue notebook he always carried, stood like a true soldier of the cross before me, leading the way.  I looked UP to that, respected it, and was eternally thankful for it.  As I said before, I’m so very thankful for what he probably never knew he was doing to and for my heart and spirit way back then.  Thanks David!  

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A CHRISTMAS LIGHTMARE

© 2019  Bill Murphy

Joshua ‘fit’ the battle of Jericho, and I just semi-finished my first skirmish of the 2019 Christmas Tree Light War.

Just as Ole Saint Nick began as a figment of someones fertile imagination, what they call ‘pre-lit’ trees are also imaginary.  One would think they’d last even through the first season of ownership, but alas, the true life-span appears to be three weeks, tops.

My first call to battle came hours ago, when I attacked the flanks of the large, living room tree.  It comes in three battle groups (sections): top, middle, base… with connections in-between.  Duh. That SOUNDS easy enough.

The enemy no doubt had a grand laugh at my first charge.  I attacked the middle unit first!  Big mistake. (The base fits it nicely… as if a devious deception to thwart me.)  Carol came in and said,  “It looks too skinny.” I didn’t discover my mistake until and hour later.  That’s where the lights really opened up on me, or should I say, stayed well (darkly) hidden, so that they could not be seen.  A large sections of those lights refused to illuminate.  Wheeeeeeeeee.

Fortunately, I knew exactly here the spare bulbs are kept: in our standard kitchen ‘junk’ drawer.  Admit it, you have one too.  45 minutes later, and with the replacement of a couple of duds, wa-la!  Houston, we have lights!  It was around this time that I discovered that I was focused on the middle section.

Off came the base, and onto it now came the proper, larger, base section.  I connected the two, then connected the power.  The base was now acting precisely as the middle had previously done!  Surely they were in collusion. 

After only a few minutes of this, mysteriously the entire base illuminated as advertised!  Amazing.  But then, seconds after that, the middle section reverted back to its old ways, as if to say, “There, take THAT!”

I fired a few parting shots, hoping to hit a vital organ, which I did not.  So I parted also, returning to the den for a little R&R… well actually R&C… rest and coffee.   As a final act of defiance on my part, I unplugged the thing.  It’ll get its anticipated meal of electricity later!

May I wish you all an early, pre-Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and may all your Christmas tree lights be bright!

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Not The End Of The World

© 2019 Bill Murphy

   I’ve never wanted to be a cowboy, or a fireman, or a movie star.  I learned early in life that art, especially commercial art, was my thing. In the early 1960s I was fresh out of college, and dreaming of that cushy job as as a creative illustrator, in the advertising field.  In those days we had no cell phones, no Google.  We had a telephone attached to a wire and a thick telephone book by the side.  And… the yellow pages were profusely illustrated!  It was THE job to be had.  

    The Yellow Page office was located upstairs over a Promos Restaurant on North State Street in Jackson, MS.  That fateful day, downstairs in the restaurant, I sat across the table from the art director for an interview.  He ordered coffee for us.  I took my first sip, and promptly SNEEZED INTO THE CUP.  There was an explosion of coffee.  It went everywhere.   

    That embarrassing interview didn’t last long.  I was not hired.  That was a huge dissappointment, but it was not the end of the world.    

    Not even 3 years later, the vice-president of Jitney Jungle called me for an interview.  They wanted to create an in-house graphic/advertising department.  Was I interested?  Yes, very much so.  41 years later, Jitney closed its doors.  I was the first one in the ad department, and the last one to leave.

    I look back now and I’m glad I sneezed in my coffee that day.  

    Oh, as a footnoote.  After a couple of years at Jitney, I had a visitor.  It was the Yellow Page Art Director and his side-kick.  They wanted me!  This time, I told them ‘no thanks.’

   That day of the coffee explosion wasn’t the end of the world.  It was the beginning! 

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THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

© 2019 Bill Murphy

This is a re-post. It was originally posted on November 28, 2017. The reason for the re-post is that for the original posting, I was forced to use a stock photo of the small red Gideon Bible, as mine was lost. I’ve searched for it numerous times since then, but to no avail. But yesterday, that cherished memento was found! I took a few liberties and ‘tweaked’ a few works. I hope you’ll enjoy this sweet memory with me!

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I’m certain this writing assignment was expected to invoke responses such as: Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men or The Old Man and the Sea. But the one book that had the most effect on my life, is the Bible. To be more specific, a small red Gideon’s New Testament, which I was given in 1952 – and promptly read.

At that time, I was in George Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. George was a neighborhood school. We had no need of school buses, and I can’t remember a single child being dropped off by automobile.

I was a ‘Safety Patrol Boy’ that year. Every intersection surrounding the school, and for a couple of blocks beyond, was manned each morning and each afternoon by a patrol boy, to insure that the smaller kids got safely across the street.

Early that year, the Gideon’s visited to our school, and passed out small red New Testaments to the students. As you see in the photos, I still have mine.

When I received my Testament, I was assigned to a rather dull and boring intersection – with few students to monitor. Morning and afternoons, I spent my time reading. I finished the entire book before my intersection assignment changed.

I was raised in a Christian home. We were not just church members, but church attenders, Sunday mornings as well as Sunday nights. Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was the head of the Primary Department. Needless to say, my sister and I received our fair share of perfect attendance awards. But one does not become a true ‘believer’ by osmosis.

As I read my little Testament, the words seemed to come alive as never before. Something really weird was happening, something that I couldn’t at first understand. And then it came to me, my Eureka moment.

Before, because I was so closely associated WITH church, and thoroughly indoctrinated with the teaching of the church, and because our church was a Christian church, ergo, I must be a Christian. But for the very first time in my young life, my heart was called upon to decide – did I really BELIEVE all this small tiny book was telling me – or didn’t I.

That was 67 years ago, but I can remember the morning as clearly as if it were yesterday, the day that I determined in my heart and in my mind, that YES, I believe. And belief and trust in the subject of that small book, has changed my life forever.

A Dog-Less Hot Dog

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I seem to remember some of the weirdest things, and at the strangest times. Such a childhood memory visited me this morning, and I wasn’t even eating a hotdog!

It happened during the early 50s. This was a time when children were taught, and thought, that all adults were like kings and queens, and were endowed with powers just below presidential status. In other words, we understood that respectful children were most often the happiest children.

My mother’s eldest sister lived next door to us on Evergreen. She moved there from Bogalusa when my uncle died. My mother’s brother, and his family live across the street.

My aunt had left dear friends behind in Bogalusa, but they stayed in touch, and visited one another as often as possible. My aunt’s friend had a daughter, 2 years older than me, and the same age as my female cousin Pat from across the street. Pat and Eleanor were fast friends… who on occasion, would drag me along on their outings.

During this pre-MetroCenter time in south Jackson, on the the spot that was to become MetroCenter, there was a sprawling miniature golf course, And right across the street was a root beer stand. Here, my memory fails me. Was it A&W? Dog ‘N Suds? Frost Top? Anyway, on that golf outing, Eleanor was hungry, so after a round of golf, we drove over to the root beer stand. Eleanor was the last to order, as her order was not a usual order. Her order was not on the menu, and therefore, by their reasoning, out-of-order. I was about to witness teen-rebellion in action!

Eleanor calmly told them that she didn’t want the ‘chili-dog,’ but what she called a ‘chilly.’ “What’s that?” she was asked. “You know, a chili-dog without the wiener on it,” she replied. “We don’t have those,” replied the adult voice. “It’s not on the menu, so I don’t know what to charge for it.”

The adult voice was probably not expecting what was about to come.

“If I was a mother wanting only a wiener for my child, how much would you charge me for it?” she asked. There was a long pause. The adult was thinking. “Twenty cents,” he finally replied. (The cost then of the chili dog on the menu was thirty-five cents). “OK,” began Eleanor, “That’s easy. You keep your twenty cent wiener, and subtract that from the thirty-five cents, which leave me with fifteen cents which I owe you for a my chilly.”

You really can’t say that Eleanor was ‘arguing’ with an adult, although it was a simple, but very calm, confrontation. The end result truly had no winner. The root beer stand made their money, Eleanor got her chilly, and I didn’t wet my pants during their exchange.

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