NUMBER SEVENTEEN MAXWELL

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 The snow fell throughout the day here in Ballengee. We usually dream of a white Christmas and this day it appears that our dream will come true. When it snows here it is mostly just a dusting but the flakes came down thick and heavy. Early on the flakes melted as soon as they hit the ground but as the day wore on the snow began to stick. As the light of day faded into dusk, a beautiful blanket of snow-covered the landscape. It was very peaceful in appearance as if we had been cleansed of the past season and now were ready for the coming new season.

Christmas being a benchmark in the measure of memory by which we gage the events of our lives has always been one of my favorites. Yes there are other moments in the year, which hold this distinction. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Easter, New Years and tax deadlines but it is Christmas that holds the most excitement. As a child Christmas is unequaled by any other event throughout the year. Christmas is even greater than the last day of school just before summer vacation. Oh those seemingly sleepless nights of Christmas Eve that I laid awake with great anticipation. Then it was hard to decide which the greater joy, the giving or the receiving. Now as I think back I do believe giving carries the more lasting satisfaction in my memory.

The events surrounding Christmas are no less of an enjoyment. Going out caroling with the church group and seeing the look of joy come across the elderly faces of those who stood by the door and listened to our surely angelic voices. Checking the lights and trimming the Christmas tree with ornaments that as the years past became old friends each with their own special worth. This ornament which Grandma always placed on her tree, this one that Uncle Jack made himself and the star which Mother made in the early years out of tin foil, water colors and ceramics. The tree itself became a monument of our family history. How we labored to place each tinsel in the proper place and the excitement when Dad plugged the lights in and they all came on. Filling the room, the house, filling our lives yet again with the warmth of family love and the hope of peace and joy throughout all the years to come. Christmas comes but once a year but each one adds to a life time of warmest moments shared with family, friends and those of the world we live in, each a new page to be read over again the next time Christmas arrives.

Christmas has come again to this little community of Ballengee, as the years have made their marks upon me, I see it not through the eyes of a child’s anticipation but through the eyes of a seasoned child’s appreciation. I must say here that I have been blessed with much to be joyful about. The meaning now of Christmas is far deeper than the joys of giving and receiving but more in accepting of the greatest gift ever received. As I look back upon each page of Christmas’s past and take from each the personal pleasure that each gives, I have come to understand the basis of tradition and their importance. It is then that I want each of my children to have the same wonderful times now and in their memories also. How empty the future would be if we allowed the future of our children to drift away from the root of the Christmas season. I remind myself each year with question, that if it not were the birth of the Christ we celebrate then what is it we are about this season? I have been blessed that in our family Christ has always been the reason but what of those who have not a clue? Yet I think they do and still harbor the curiosity for it, as the world has yet to escape the truth of Christmas.

This night I gathered my sons and daughter, who are not such little ones anymore, and we went out to enjoy the season as we have over the years we’ve spent growing together. It has become for us, and many in Ballengee, a tradition to walk down Maxwell Street and admire the lights.

Maxwell Street is not the longest of streets here, having only seventeen homes, but it is in the exclusive part of town. Maxwell street is perhaps one of, if not, the oldest street in Ballengee. The oldest families live there. All but one of the founding fathers of Ballengee lived there. Today most of our community leaders live or are from Maxwell Street. That being who they are found it a commitment to giving the fullest of measure in keeping the tradition of each passing season. Christmas being certainly the greatest opportunity for all on Maxwell Street to put on their show of ability in keeping with the season. It has then become a marvelous sight to see as the residence of Maxwell street attempt to equal and out do themselves with the lights and Christmas declarations. So most of us here in Ballengee make an annual trek to Maxwell Street to admire the result of their effort there.

We go there to admire that which we have seen there in the past and to see that which has been added for this Christmas season. It is an evolving process as each year new features are added to the individual displays. I have found myself wondering each year what more can be done and have been amazed that the creativity of Maxwell Street has seemingly no end. So it is something old and something new each and every Christmas season. It has become an event here amongst the masses of Ballengee as we the town folks stroll down Maxwell Street.

Though we are a very tight nit town and most folks here know each by name still somehow I hate to see venders setting up their stands on Maxwell Street. As we pass down I hold my displeasure, as they are my friends from many years gone by. John Crawford, perhaps the one whom I have known the longest of any, has set up a stand filled with delights from his restaurant the Kountry Kitchen. Betty Mae who runs the local Tastee Freeze has an Ice Cream stand. Imagine that on a snowy evening my oldest boy would stop for an ice cream cone. That last-minute gift can also be purchased on Maxwell Street from Lou’s Five and Dime. But it’s not that much an annoyance and mostly just a personal displeasure of mine and more or less tolerated by the community and even participated by they who speak against it. But I do not allow this distraction to displace my attraction to the extraordinary glitter I have come to see.

We pass by each house, each display, which now blend into each other, in astonishment of their individual and yet coordinated creation. I am amazed not only by the uniqueness, creativeness and effort of this monument, but that it has remained and changed throughout my whole life here. I think as I walk that my children somewhere into the future will be having the same thoughts as I now have. Yes I say to myself that it is important to have anchors in life such as this to bind our lives together throughout the generations.

I am particularly impressed by Judge Stone’s display this year. He had taken a garden hose and lined it atop of the gutters of his house. Turning it on and allowing Ice sickles to form. He then placed small colored lights that blink behind the sickles and the effect is awesome. Not to be out done John Thomas built a wooden frame in the shape of a Christmas tree and with the same principle built an Ice Christmas tree with lights embedded in the ice. The ice melted around the bulbs placing them inside little cavities, which reflected the colors magnificently. Each year the residences of Maxwell Street never cease to create something never before seen.

Maxwell Street ends in a hook at the base of higher ground known as Laurels Peak. Here stands the oldest know structure in the county. It is an exquisite Victorian home-built in late 1750 by a man named Landon Maxwell. He came here directly from England to establish his own lordship in the New World of the Americas. It was he and his assembly that settled this part of the country, which then was the Far Western frontier of the New World. At first they battled and then befriended the Shawnee Indians. London’s son Brent turned against his Father and sided with the revolutionaries in the war for independence. He was banded from the estate but in view of the war’s outcome returned to claim the family leadership at his Father’s death. Brent’s grandson Chester Maxwell rebelled against the Government of Virginia and the Maxwell home became the headquarters for Union Gen. William Averell in securing the area from the Confederates. A few small battles were fought nearby and he was successful in forcing the army of Confederate Gen. John Echols into Virginia. Droop Mountain the largest Civil War battle fought on West Virginia soil was directed from the Maxwell home.

Today the Maxwell home stands as a monument to the history of this area. We don’t call it the Maxwell home but that of the three sisters. They are the direct descendents of Landon Maxwell and the last of his family. The sisters, Reba, Rose and Mary never married and have lived their whole lives from birth in the upper bedrooms until this day in the Maxwell home. They, the Maxwell Sisters, when in town or out in the country, are treated as the royalty from which they have come. Most of the land that Ballengee rests upon once was the property of their family and for that we seemingly still remain in gratitude. Number seventeen Maxwell Street then is the last stop along our walk.

At number seventeen, the home of the three sisters, is perhaps the grandest of all the displays to be found here. If none other along the journey moved the soul of men the display at number seventeen shall. Here stands, as has in all the years of my own memory, one illustration of the season. Not overcome in lights or ornaments but standing uniquely upon its own merit. A stall filled with a straw floor and nothing more than a manger with a child resting in it. In the corners of the stall candles flickered in the crisp night air. Behind the manger stood the three sisters, Reba with an accordion, Rose with an acoustic mandolin and Mary holding a carol book. They played their instruments and sang carols to the newborn king. Their voices, reflecting the many years they had shared with us, lifted high into the heavens with honest heartfelt praise. It was as if the angles themselves had given them voice on loan from God just for this season. As they sang O Holy Night the earth stood still and bowed to the greatest gift that man has ever received. Here at the end of Maxwell Street all who had traveled stopped and remained in awe of this glorious occurrence.

As the kids and I stood there along with the masses in silence while the three sisters sang, I couldn’t help but marvel at the reality of the moment. I couldn’t help but take in the truth of the moment and that of this Christmas season. This moment, this day, this season, our lives here on earth are all enameled here at this connection on Maxwell Street. It is, as we travel down the road of our lives, that all the glitter that man has added to this world shall distract and hold us for the while. But as we reach the end it shall be the truth found in the manger that shall capture our consideration and that which we must adjudicate toward our end. For we all shall make this journey and we all shall reach this end. Let us hope, let us pray, that along the way we lose not that of our purpose. As neither the wise men had nor the Shepherd’s of the field, that we have come to worship the new-born King.

  Copyright: 2001 Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Durant Bible College

 

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