Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The Greatest Gifts of All

This afternoon, I went to BirkdaleVillage in Huntersville and stopped by a few stores including Kilwin’s for some fudge and assorted candies for the holiday. Then it was off to Cornelius to Honey Baked Ham Company for our Christmas Eve dinner before a last stop at NorthLake Mall.  Look around the lake towns and you’ll find our stores have geared up for the busiest days of the year.  Retailers sell more in the fourth quarter than they do all year and our merchants are hoping for a much better 2011 than the last few years!

The sights and sounds of Christmas fill the air as the Salvation Army rings their bells at the malls and area grocery stores bringing holiday cheer as you approach.  Radio stations are slipping in our favorite holiday classics between today’s modern hits.

I cannot help thinking of Christmas without getting a little nostalgic about how we all went to both sets of grandparents for Christmas.  It started with dinner at Grandmamma Feemster’s and ended with the Russell’s later in the evening.  For many years I was the first grandchild on the Russell side and my cousin’s father was in the military and they were often stationed around the country leaving me with most of the presents.  I was spoiled rotten!

I always believed the best gifts came in the biggest boxes and always delighted when someone put a large box under the tree with my name on it.  When I was just a little tike, and on one of the few Christmas Eve’s when my cousin Jim and Kim Lever were home, I was taken back when my cousins received new toys from my grandparents and I had a stuffed monkey in my box.

I’ve heard the story recounted many times how I cried getting the monkey.  Try as they might, no one could stifle my tears or convince me I had the most marvelous gift.  Mom confided to me years later that Grandmamma picked out the toy herself and actually spent more on it than the other gifts put together.  All four grandparents worked at the mill, but the Feemster’s just scraped by.  But to this day, I’m convinced that both felt they had all the riches of the world.

Granddaddy loved the outdoors and fishing and Grandmother loved her daughters and her family.  The Lord blessed them both and they had all they needed.

After a while, Granddaddy Feemster grew tired of my crying and proceeded to snatch up the stuffed animal and tossed it out into the front yard.  “There, there’s nothing more to cry about.  He’s gone,” Granddaddy proclaimed. 

My tears dried up immediately and with a flash I jumped up and ran out the door to fetch my beloved friend.  I seldom slept without that stuffed animal for many years and ironically it is the only toy left from my youth.  My G.I. Joes, matchbox cars, baseball cards, and comic books have all been lost.  But Grandmamma put away the monkey and re-presented it to me one Christmas Eve in my teens.

Today, it sits on a shelf in my den, not far from a chair with a hand crocheted afghan blanket that my Grandmother Russell made for me.  I suppose some time ago, I realized it’s not the gifts you receive but the love in the gifts you give that matter most. 

Kim, Bill Jr., and Jim Jr.

Over the next couple of days that are left for your Christmas shopping – when you hear that bell from the Salvation Army, drop a little more in for that family that needs it.  Put in a little extra at Church this Sunday or at Christmas Mass.  Bottom line – open your wallets and your heart this Christmas.

My Grandparents are all gone now. I lost Grandmamma Feemster last February.  But nearly every winter I wrap up in the afghan Grandmamma Russell made me and on more than a few occasions I take the monkey off the shelf and hold him.  The cotton has thinned in places and the stuffing pokes out. But almost fifty years later, it’s still filled with a Grandmother’s love.  They both knew, it’s not the biggest gift that counts but the one that comes from the heart that matters most.

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December 22, 2011 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Greatest Gift of All

Bill Russell alias "GI Joe"

At the age of six, I was pretty certain of my career path – I would likely be a soldier or a cowboy.  I looked pretty sharp in my new G.I. Joe uniform my Grandmother Feemster bought that year and I had a rather nifty little salute. It was about that time though that dad and Granddaddy Russell bought me a pony and I was also pretty sure I could be the next John Wayne.  That same year Santa left a “doctor’s kit” under the Christmas tree.  My present included a microscope and a doctor’s bag equipped with stethoscope, a little flashlight to peer into ears and mouths, and little candy pills to remedy nearly any non-life threatening ailment. 

Mom had also purchased me the Board Game “Operation” that had players remove items from the board without touching the sides setting off a buzzer. My family marveled at my steady hands and surgical abilities. Granddaddy Russell often served as my patient over and over again as I gave him one examination after the other, always leaving him with a “pill” to take to cure any sickness. Granddaddy started referring to me as “Doc” and often called me that long after I grew out of my doctor phase. I never made it into medical school, instead turning my attention to business.

Tall in the Saddle at 2 years old Jan 1961

Recently in a staff meeting, we all spoke about the tremendous activity at the Chamber. While business may have slowed down over the last couple of years, there are more seminars and programs going on at the Chamber than ever before.

Our Chamber coordinates consultations and business assistance with the SBA and SCORE to help our businesses create or redefine their business marketing and financial strategies. In essence, the Chamber is much like the doctor’s office as we help the struggling and ailing businesses get back on their feet, ready and able to compete in the marketplace. This month, our Chamber members and service organizations will collect “Coats for Kids”; deliver toys, clothing, and food to families needing a helping hand; make Santa visits to shut ins and kids in hospitals; and volunteer their time, talent…and yes, dollars to make this a memorable Christmas for those who are less fortunate.

I cannot count the number of times I have participated in a “Christmas Charities” event, providing for that family who would otherwise go without that family Christmas celebration. Having that mother look me in the face, with tears in her eyes telling me she had explained to the kids there would be no Christmas – no Santa this year. “I didn’t think anyone cared,” one woman once said to me as her little boy hugged tightly at her waist.

Merry Christmas from Bill, Gipper, Abbey, and Mad Dog Murray!

Long ago, I came to understand that it’s not what we get in life that matters but what we give to others that counts and what we become by doing it. That service to humanity, service above self, is the greatest gift. In a way, I became that doctor that I envisioned as a little boy. In a real sense, that’s what our staff here at the Chamber means to our local businesses. And yes, at times, I may still be a little bit of a cowboy.

As we enjoy, this holiday season, let us all remember the real purpose of our celebration, and perhaps share with others … the greatest gift of all.

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment