The First Christmas I Remember | Original Writings by Catherine Shumaker Brinson vol. 2


Catherine was only five years old when her Grandfather May took the children out to find a Christmas tree, and it became the first Christmas that Catherine remembered. There were many Christmases that she related this story to me, and I’m sure you’ll be as blessed by it as I’ve always been.

George Washington May and Ada Parmenter May family about 1932
Photo of the George Washington May family taken about 1932, when “Little Catherine” was about 5 years old. Far right is Catherine Edna May Shumaker (my grandmother). Second from right is her father (my great-grandfather) George Washington May. Center, looking down and to the side, is Ada Parmenter May (my great-grandmother). The little girl in front is Catherine Shumaker (my mother), author of this story. Directly behind “Little Catherine” is “Aunt Mary”, the youngest daughter of George and Ada. On the back row are George and Ada’s sons Charles, Walter, Bert (the smallest), and George (with his arm around Bert). George and Ada’s daughter Florence is not in this photo (she had blonde curly hair). The young woman far left is Frances. Photo was probably taken in Orange Grove, Mississippi.

The First Christmas I Remember

I was no older than 5 because my Grandfather May died when I was 6. But my eyes saw nothing that would suggest that there was a limited number of Christmases in anyone’s life. Granddaddy had said for us to go with him to look for a Christmas tree. I am not sure how many of us went but I remember my 2 older brothers, Robert and Edward, and my youngest Uncle, Bert, and my youngest Aunt, Mary who was just 3 months older than my oldest brother. My father also went with us. Granddaddy led the pack and Uncle Bert carried the ax — or was it just a hatchet.

We crossed Orange Grove Road and entered the undeveloped land, walking towards the creek where we swam in summers. We approached many trees, mostly pines, but Granddaddy just shook his head no and the clan moved on. We had always had a cedar tree so I thought that I understood why he did not stop for pines. But he did stop and look at a few nicely shaped pines. We went all the way to the creek. I did not think that I had a hard time keeping up but now as I look back on it, my memory was always with most of the family in front of me. But Granddaddy would often look back so apparently he was concerned that my legs were shorter than my next older brother, Edward, who is 4 years older than me.

We walked on the level ground above the wide creek bed, but we could often see the water winding its way towards its final destination, the Gulf of Mexico. We walked for what seemed to me a long time, but I enjoyed every minute trekking along with so many family members!

Actually the trees were not close together like they were around Vicksburg where we lived. Most of the plant material was scrub, very little being much above my knees. So there was plenty of room for us young ones to run this way or that. I thought of Uncle Bert as being young like my brothers, but Aunt Mary who was about 9 or 10, already seemed to be older.

After a while we left the creek veering back towards the road. A short distance further, Granddaddy stopped and looked towards a few trees, then closer to them, he walked around one of them. He then indicated to Uncle Bert that that was his choice. Uncle Bert cut the tree down and some of them helped carry it. Now this tree wasn’t easy to carry — it had stickers on its leaves! Yes, Granddaddy had picked out a nicely shaped HOLLY tree loaded with red berries. Today I wonder if there were many holly trees out on the prairie where he spent many years of his life.

I don’t remember the walk back to the road other than the “boys” carrying it. Aunt Mary and I did not help.

Uncle Bert made a stand for the tree and set it up. I don’t remember any decorations being put on the tree, but there probably was. However, Granddaddy said it was pretty just like it was.

You might ask, “Well, Catherine, what presents did you receive at this, the first Christmas you remember?” Frankly, I couldn’t even tell you for sure that I got any, but I am sure that I did. But in my mind I can still see us walking, following my grandfather, across Orange Grove Road and down by the creek, a good mile from the house, then seeing the tree cut down and seeing it standing in the corner of the living room — which is another story. Which living room? Maybe we’ll talk about that later.

Catherine Shumaker Brinson
December 24, 2006

“Granddaddy May” is George Washington May, who married Ada May Parmenter on September 1, 1898. Read about Ada’s Wedding Hanky and Pin.

Their oldest child (of eight) was Catherine Edna May, born January 6, 1900.

Two of their youngest children were mentioned in this story – “Uncle Bert” and “Aunt Mary”.

Catherine Edna May married David Jesse Shumaker and had four children, Robert, Edward, Catherine, and George. Catherine is the author of this true story.

George and Ada May lived in Orange Grove, Mississippi, at the time of this story.

The First Christmas I Remember | Original Writings of Catherine Shumaker Brinson vol. 2The First Christmas I Remember | Original Writings of Catherine Shumaker Brinson vol. 2

Tell me in the comments below what you think about this story!

2 Replies to “The First Christmas I Remember | Original Writings by Catherine Shumaker Brinson vol. 2”

  1. That’s amazing that she remembers the tree cutting experience at 5 years old. Wonder what she got as a present on Christmas day?

    1. I think we remember important events in our lives at five years old, and this was obviously important to her! As for the present, we may never know. Unless I run across a story about the present she got that Christmas. 🙂

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