African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Augustus M. Hodges, "The Christmas Reunion" (1900)

'Twas a bright Christmas morning in "Ole Kentuck";
Aunt Sallie was busy disrobing a duck-
A featherless turkey close by her side lay,
Prepared for the dinner that bright Christmas day.
'Twas a family reunion, and Uncle Joe Moore
And his good wife Aunt Sallie, both ten and threescore,
Had gathered around them their "girls" and their "boys,"
With these "children's" children - the grandparents' joys.
The "girls" (all past thirty) were helping to make
The "sweet tater puddin's," the pies, and the cake;
The "boys" and the grand-boys the fires were making,
The oldest granddaughter the biscuits was baking,
The little grandchildren a dozen or more
Were tumbling about just outside of the door;
While Uncle Joe Moore, the venerable sire,
Sat smoking his pipe with his back to the fire.
When the clock tolled the midday the feast was complete,
And after each member had taken his seat,
The venerable sire rose up from his chair,
And with uplifted arms he offered this prayer:
"We thank Thee, our Father in heaven," he said,
"For the abundance of good things before us now spread;
We thank Thee, dear Lord, that I and my wife
Have been spared by thy goodness to reach an old life;
We thank Thee, of all things, the sweetest and best,
For our dear children's presence from North, South and West.
Continue Thy blessings, Thy goodness, Thy love,
And prepare us to meet Thee in heaven above."
The grace being over the feast was begun.
The duck and the turkey were carved one by one;
The big chicken pot-pie received the same fate,
And a generous helping was piled on each plate.

After the meats came the puddings and pies;
Then how the grandchildren all opened their eyes
When one of their uncles from far Illinois
Brought out from the closet a basket of toys.
As dinner was over, the venerable sire
Rose up from his seat and stood by the fire,
Where he called to his side each lamb of his fold,
And blessed and caressed them like Jacob of old.
"What changes we've seen, Sal," remarked Uncle Joe,
"These years we've been married, some forty or so.
Now let me see, forty? Yes, forty-one years
Today, since we met at Uncle Bill Steer's.
I remember, ole 'oman, you looked mighty gran',
And I was then, children, er good-lookin' man. 
I walked with your mother from Clayton that night,
And 'fore we got home, why I got in a fight.
Tom Scott, a 'patroller,' insulted your mother,
So I knocked him down, and Ed, his big brother.
I then asked your mother if she'd be my wife.
Her answer was: 'Yes, Joe, since you risked your life
For me up the road, and licked old Tom Scott,
Yes, I'll be your wife; why, Joseph, why not?'
But the next day, my children, my master sold me
To an ole Nigger trader' from East Tennessee,
Where I worked on a farm without seeing your mother
For eighty long days, till me and another.

Plantation hand run away and met with good luck,
For we soon found ourselves on the soil of Kentuck.
'Fore my ole master knowed I run erway
We two was married that same Christmas day.
We was married at Scottsville by ole Peter Brown,
Who was a white minister that lived in the town,
And would marry us slave folks no matter or not
If our masters was willing, if we only had got
A couple of chickens or a barrel of corn.
The very next Christmas our Lucy was born,
And the next of the past that I now can remember
Is when we moved here the following September.
Then came the war, Sal, and ole marster died,
While Missus and you, Sal, stood by his side.
Then I left you and children, and went out to fight
For the Union and Freedom one warm summer's night.
Then good Abr'am Lincoln, he sot us all free,
And we had in the county a big jubilee.
Then you boys and you girls all worked hand to hand
To buy me and your mother this house and this land.
Then some of you married, and some went out West,
While me and your mother, along with the rest,
Stayed on the old homestead and worked night and day,
A farming and trucking, and made the work pay.
We are glad for to meet you all back here once more,
And see your dear babies together, before

Sat smoking his pipe with his back to the fire.
Me and your mother (we are both old and gray)
Receive old Death's summons to call us away.
God bless you, my children, through life, is my prayer,"
And the venerable sire sat down in his chair.
The rest of the evening was passed in a measure
Receiving old friends or by chatting in pleasure
Till long after midnight, with hearts light and gay.
'Twas a happy reunion that bright Christmas day.

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