Christmas on Tobacco Road

I grew up on a little hard scrabble farm in the hills and hollers of eastern Tennessee. Our farm was on a gravel road that connected to two more gravel roads before reaching an asphalt state highway. Planting, harvesting, and preparing tobacco for market auction was a family affair that everyone helped as soon as one could walk. The process paid for next year’s seed, property taxes, Christmas presents and every 4-5 years a new used but not quite worn out car.

One year there were shiny new bicycles with a banana seat, high rise handlebars with hand brakes and shifters for my brothers and I. Some years there was electric football sets for indoors and a shared football with a kicking tee and helmets for all for outside. Some years there was little. I never knew which kind of Christmas it would be until the tobacco was sold at auction around Thanksgiving. Some years my dad would disappear with the precious check for days in the fog of an alcoholic binge and when combined with gambling came home after losing it all, sometimes more and a stint in the county jail drunk tank. Even now 60 years past, my body becomes anxious in September and October without knowing why until I began to think about Christmas on Tobacco Road.

Christmas on Tobacco Road

I remember the shiny new bicycles Christmas of 1967
There was also the electric football set and slot racetrack sets we shared
I also remember the spam vs ham and chicken vs turkey years
And what toys my mom could scrounge from the 5 and 10
Some years my dad made it home with the check from the tobacco auction
Some years he did not – money pissed away and lost with just one more hand and one more beer
Shame was our Christmas gift father, mother and child
Christmas on Tobacco Road – some good, some bad, most not
I never quite knew though I tried so very hard to predict
But mostly I learned to forget


About the Author

Robert B is sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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