The Sunday after Christmas will always hold a special place in my treasury of memories.

In my boyhood days, my family celebrated Christmas with my Granny Lena’s family, the Bradfords on the Sunday after Christmas.

Every year, we made the trek from Watervale to my great uncle Carson “Stumpy” Bradford’s house in New Middleton for a day of Christmas festivities. In the earliest days, Uncle Stumpy lived in the house, which is now a part of the Scudder farm located just south of New Middleton on Old Highway 52. The house featured a wide front porch as it sat serenely on top of a hill. A big, red feed barn rests at the bottom of the hill on the right along with a one-car garage built into the hill in front of the house.

I can still remember the warm feeling that enveloped me when the Bradford home place came into view as we arrived each year. Across the cattle gap and up the gravel driveway that curled up the hill we drove. The excitement was almost unbearable.

It is a long way from Watervale to New Middleton when you are traveling in the crowded cab of a pickup truck. When I was a boy, I took three painfully-long truck rides. One was from Watervale to Lebanon. The second was from Watervale to Riddleton (by the old road). The third was from Watervale to New Middleton on the Sunday after Christmas.

It was worth every mile.

My Granny Lena had three brothers — Earl (Pete), Bill and Jack — and two sisters, Georgia Lee and Ruth. Counting all the children, grandchildren, cousins, in-laws and outlaws, a crowd of 30 or 40 showed up in New Middleton on the Sunday after Christmas. Georgia Lee was the only one of the children of Fate and Ida Bradford who never married. In those days, she was referred to as an old maid. I’m quite sure that would not be politically correct today.

Since Georgia Lee (we called her Aunt George) had no children, the Sunday after Christmas was of very special significance to her. It was her day. And everyone in the family seemed intent on making it so.

Aunt George met everyone at the front door when they arrived. There were lots of hugs and warm greetings. I will never forget the light in her eyes. As I said, it was her day.

The Sunday after Christmas became such a celebration that Uncle Stumpy added a full porch to the side of his house to accommodate the crowd.

After all these years, I still remember the smiles and the hugs and the warm greeting. And I still remember the smell of that house.

I’ve never thought much about how heaven must smell. But I have an idea it must be close to how Uncle Stumpy’s house smelled on the Sunday after Christmas.

As soon as I made it past the greeters at the front door, I headed for the kitchen. My Aunt Betty (married to Jack Bradford) was in charge of the coffee and sweet tea. She was overseer of a 30-cup coffee percolator. The air in the kitchen was heavy with the smell of coffee, sweet tea and fresh-cut lemons. It was tantalizing.

And the food … it was to die for. Of course, there were the usual Christmas favorites, turkey and dressing, green beans, sweet potato casserole, coleslaw, and the like. But this table had some unique dishes for me. There was one yellow cut-glass bowl of fruit salad that was there every year … same fruit salad in the same bowl. The fruit salad was covered with whipped cream and sprinkled with coconut and decorated with a single row of maraschino cherries. And there was oyster dressing and an asparagus casserole and red candied apple rings and old country ham. My Granny Lena provided the yeast rolls. I have not eaten any to compare to them since.

And then, there were all the cousins. One of them, my second cousin, Jerry Holbrook, remains one of my dearest kinsmen to this very day.

And there were “city” cousins. My great uncle Pete had three grandchildren who lived in Nashville. All three had red hair and fair skin. Because they grew up in the city, my brothers and I considered them to be a little on the soft side.

My sister ran into one of them a few years ago. As they discussed fond memories of the Sunday after Christmas, my red-headed cousin said, “We always referred to your brothers as our sun-tanned, country cousins with the short haircuts and big ears.”

I guess that while we were sizing them up, they were sizing us up.

This time of year always takes me back to those Sundays after Christmas … days filled with warm hugs and warm hearts and loving smiles.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

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