For 76 years now, the little cabin has been center stage this time of year in my family.
My papa built it more than three quarters of a century ago when he was a young man with three little ones. He took to the woods outside his humble home in Webster Groves, Missouri with a random thought he would build a memory.
At that time, it probably wasn’t so romantic of a thought. But, an outdoorsman, Robert Lawrie, decided he was going to hand-make something for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was sort of a whimsical nod to the love he had for his family. Starting a tradition was maybe way far in his mind. At that time, he had no idea his makeshift project would become one of the most treasured items within our family to this day.
What started out to be a manger, turned into a little log cabin. Papa gathered up limbs and pieces of wood and brought them back to the house. It was a natural Lincoln-log endeavor. Who knows? Perhaps it was snowy, and he had a little ax and went to notch little logs. What emerged from that trek turned into a decades-long tradition that still today graces my mother’s dining room table as we speak.
Last week, we got up on a flimsy ladder and retrieved a special box marked “Cabin.” It’s Thanksgiving time, and time to bring out our cabin to grace mom’s dining room table.
Papa never knew what he did that snowy day would shape our tradition. My 83-year-old mom kept care of this little cabin that’s about 1 foot long and maybe 1 foot high. Way back 76 years ago, it turned into a little cabin with a cardboard roof with cotton on top for snow. There are homemade cotton snowmen, which my mom’s mother made, and they’ve been touched up through the years. Last week, we fluffed them up a bit.
Papa built a small tiny copper stove and put it inside the cabin under the chimney, and we burn incense to make smoke come out through the chimney. And yes, one time the roof caught fire, but they made another roof with new cotton.
There are windows and doors. The neat part about the tradition is each Christmas and even Thanksgiving – she brings it out around Thanksgiving – my mom will go buy small presents like Chapstick or hand cream or pens for me, a token little gift for herself and tiny gifts for my girls. She wraps them up, staples a long red ribbon on the paper and puts them in the cabin for each of us during a holiday dinner, so each of us can pull the red ribbon and get our little presents. Last year, I took over this sweet nod to papa.
It's just so much fun and mom did it with her siblings for years, and she did it with my sister and me.
My now, grown girls love this tradition – still to this day – and now my granddaughter, Sophia, also takes part.
We've never gone one year in 76 years not doing this tradition. This little cabin has been through some moves – many actually – and it’s one thing we hold to our hearts and know it’s a keepsake to be treasured and never lost.
And recently, when mom asked us about special things – it's the first thing I asked for – not worth anything monetarily, but the memories and tradition mean more to me than any pricey item.
This homemade cabin from the hands of my papa light years away is priceless. And one day, I will leave it to one of my girls.
Laurie Everett is staff writer for Main Street Nashville East.