Without knowing why, lately I’ve been fixated on peppermint logs that we always had for Christmas when I was growing up. Christmas in my family’s farmhouse was a big deal when I was a young boy. Little money was available for presents, but that didn’t keep me from dreaming big at Christmastime.
During my years of wanting to be a cowboy, influenced by Western movies on TV, I dreamed of having a full cowboy outfit, like the one Roy Rogers wore on his show with Dale Evans and Trigger, and a pony that was a small-scale version of Trigger. I repeatedly told my parents and my older brother Nolen Robert about this big dream. But all Santa was ever able to swing was a Roy Rogers-type cap pistol replica of the two six-shooters and beautifully embossed leather holsters and gun belt with a silver-looking buckle, when I was six years old. I have written an unfortunate episode involving my fancy cowboy gun set.
Looking back, I don’t remember any other Christmas gift of any particular toy. I know I received some kind of small gift each year, but they left no lasting impression.
I vividly remember the stockings that Nolen Robert and I received each Christmas. Mother had made them on her old peddle-type Singer sewing machine. They were filled every year with fruit and nuts: oranges, apples, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts in their shells.
But my mind keeps going back to those huge peppermint logs that my parents bought each year at Christmas. Santa was not involved in acquiring them. These peppermint logs were almost as big as a stick of bologna, or baloney as we called it.
On Christmas Day we broke up those peppermint logs using a meat-tenderizer hammer and put the pieces in a container that was kept on the kitchen counter. Some of those pieces were as big as a little boy’s fist. I liked chewing on them, biting off chunks, licking them, and licking my fingers.
Everyone in my family liked stopping by that peppermint container to grab a shard of candy on the way to do chores, after meals, or any other time we liked. When the newness wore off each year, we visited the container less often. We usually finished the giant peppermint log in February or March.
But why does this particular Christmas memory stand out over a half century later? I really don’t care for peppermint candy anymore, having gravitated to many other favorite sweets.
Maybe what I treasure about that memory of peppermint logs is how our whole family enjoyed them. There were no rules of consumption. Any of us could have as much as we wanted. Those peppermint candy shards and chunks were a source of predictable, familial happiness.
That’s it! That’s why peppermint logs at Christmas keep coming back to mind after all these years. More than any other Christmas memory.
Now it looks like the toys I received each year weren’t all that important. It was the happy family times that were important.