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MONDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2006
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Jada Whitaker’s most prized Christmas gift is this desk, made for her by her grandfather, Wayne Whitaker, when she was 12. The Hartselle 11th-grader uses it for studying, reading her Bible and holding her majorette trophies.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Jada Whitaker’s most prized Christmas gift is this desk, made for her by her grandfather, Wayne Whitaker, when she was 12. The Hartselle 11th-grader uses it for studying, reading her Bible and holding her majorette trophies.

A gift from grandfather’s hands
Handmade desk is Jada Whitaker’s treasure

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com· 340-2446

Grandparents often pass along their Christmas traditions and holiday memories to children and grandchildren.

Often their material gifts can be fleeting, as when they buy the latest toys as holiday gifts.

Sometimes, however, their handmade gifts are cherished for generations.

Jada Whitaker, a Hartselle 11th-grader, also has fond memories of a grandfather and his special gift, handmade just for her.

As in many other years, she went with her family to the Hartselle home of her grandparents, Wayne and Billie Whitaker, the Christmas she was 12.

After the turkey and dressing, she was eyeing the gifts under the tree and wondering which were hers when her grandmother asked her to get some garbage bags from the outbuilding.

“There was a large object with a sheet over it,” she recalled. “I turned around, and the rest of my family was behind me. My grandfather took off the sheet, and there was the most beautiful desk I had ever seen.

“It was the perfect size to fit in my room and the perfect size for me. The desk had a shiny oak finish with three drawers, a pullout drawer for desk necessities and cubbyholes for books. It was the best Christmas present ever,” she said. The drawers were filled with more gifts.

Now that she is older, Whitaker appreciates the handmade desk more than ever.

Jada Whitaker as a baby with her grandfather, Wayne Whitaker, who now has hospice care. She felt the best gift she could give him this year is her Christmas memory of what he gave her.
Courtesy photo
Jada Whitaker as a baby with her grandfather, Wayne Whitaker, who now has hospice care. She felt the best gift she could give him this year is her Christmas memory of what he gave her.
“My grandfather is now sick and will never make anything with his hands again,” she said. “When I look at my desk, it reminds me of my grandfather when he was not sick, and the good memories. I feel I have grown into a better person with this desk, because it is where I read my Bible, study for tests and do my homework.

“... And when I am older and have children, I can sit down with them at my desk and share the Christmas memories about my grandfather.”

Memories of a grandfather and his Christmas shenanigans are on the mind of Bonita Turner Cotting of Flint.

Her granddad, Winford Turner Sr., died last winter, but she remembers all the Christmas Eves when the 10 grandchildren and their parents would go to his house in Decatur for their traditional chili dinner and gift exchange.

“My grandfather would watch the news and update us often on Santa’s whereabouts. About the time we would be ready to go home to get in bed, he would holler at us to all run out to the porch and look in the sky, where a red light was blinking.

“We looked in amazement as he told us it was Rudolph and Santa,” she recalled, when in reality it was the red light on top of a building nearby.

“He may be gone from this earth, but his memory lives inside each of us as we start a new tradition with new additions this Christmas season,” said Cotting, now the mother of two.

Christmas birthday

Ava Johnson of Decatur, who lived with her grandfather on her father’s side at Speake while growing up, has a Christmas birthday.

Her grandparents, parents and later her husband always made sure she got gifts for both her birthday and Christmas — and knew which was which.

“I never felt cheated because I had a Christmas birthday,” said Johnson, who turns 89 today.

“My mother was a good cook, and we always had lots of candies and cakes — I just didn’t know which one was the birthday cake,” she said.

They needed a lot of cakes, because her family had a lot of December birthdays, with her granddaughter’s on Dec. 21, her grandmother Mary Stephenson’s Dec. 22, hers on Dec. 25 and her father, Eaton Stephenson’s, on Dec. 26.

A string of cousins and other relatives came in and out over the holidays.

Johnson, who taught school for 40 years in Lawrence County, recalls receiving dolls and, as she got older, manicure sets and similar gifts.

“When I married, my husband would always bring me a gift and say, ‘This is your birthday gift, and your Christmas gift is under the tree.’ ”

Chester Johnson died in 1994, and now her children carry on that tradition.

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