Nashville Family Tradition

FrostyAn incomplete draft . . .

For me and I hope for you this is a season of great joy, but we recognize that for many it is a time of great sorrow (be it brief and situational or extended and systemic). The story that follows a brief preamble is one of great joy.

A theme is evolving for me over these past few days and weeks ‘as the stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .’ That theme broadly based is about duality. I remember over pitchers of beer at the Orange Bull tavern on the strip at the University of Texas in Austin how we would insert in one of our philosophic discussions, ‘Oh the dichotomy of life!’ Little did we know and yet much did we know. My over-riding Christmas wish for this year is that we can continue to evolve more consciously our thinking, speaking and doing to ‘and’ versus ‘or’ and that the heavier hand of duality can become the lighter touch of commonality and unity.

Santa and RudolphTonight (12.23.14) I will be joining one of my two sisters at a holiday party that had its origins on Lynwood Terrace in Nashville on Christmas Eve 1963. The Mills family had moved from Dallas in June that summer and the Heard family had moved the previous January from Chapel Hill. Carla Mills and Connie Heard who were 8 years old brought the two families together and a tradition was established. For quite a few years it was just the two families on Christmas Eve and those were rich and special times. For the first three years the celebration took place at the Chancellor’s manse of Vanderbilt where the Heard’s resided. Our houses were separated by five large rolling lawns on both sides of the street with beautifully architected homes that were built in the 1910s and 1920s. All but the two that housed us were still in the hands of the original families.

In 1966 the Christmas Eve gathering was held at the Heard’s residence at the relocated manse on Deer Park Lane a short drive away by car (or bicycle). The eleven of us were gathered around a blazing fire at one end of the living chamber. The Heard family was Jean, Alex, and their children Stephen, Frank, Connie and Christopher. The Mills family was Marge, Dave and their children Skip (David), Carla and Vicki.
Alex, the consummate host, would take each person’s drink request personally (one at a time) recede from the room for its preparation, return for its presentation and then to repeat the process with the next guest. For the recipient it was captivating and endearing attention. I watched him do this in less intimate settings for decades to come and always marveled. This particular year he asked me if I would accompany him in helping with each of those presentations. The bar at Deer Park . . . to be continued

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