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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Greatest Gift - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

As Christmas approaches, my mind turns to gifts--giving and receiving. One of my favorite imaginings involves gift-giving in the Bozeman family at Christmastime in Woodstock's distant past. The Bozeman family's turn-of-the-century holiday was not so different than yours or mine. Except in those days, an apple and orange in your stocking meant prosperity because apples were limited for a short season on the tree at the rear of your lot, and that costly, sweet-juicy orange, a rare treat, came from a place so, so far away--South Florida. With only kerosene lamps or candles to break through the night, early Woodstock townsfolk would flip at the sight of houses, today, lit like sparkling, jeweled boxes fit for yuletide celebration. Well, now that I'm thinking about it, things really have changed.  

The journal accounts at Dean's Store in Woodstock, record Mr. Bozeman making purchases for his family on December 23, 1914. It's all recorded in the store owner's penciled script. Drop by and read for yourself. Have you seen the unique, moss-green home owned by Christine and Phil Blight on Rope Mill Road? A century earlier, the Bozeman parents raised their girls there. At the time of the Christmas purchases, Dave Bozeman had a wife named Sarah and four daughters:  Bonnie, 16; Lola,12; Mildred,8; and baby Sarah,1. Mr. Bozeman earned his family's living by running a mercantile store that sold dry goods--items like overalls, textiles and notions. He also operated a cotton brokerage with a partner. The store, now gone, filled the spot where a rectangle of grass skirts our Woodstock mural at Towne Lake Parkway and Main Street. The cotton warehouse was situated behind the store. Following is a list of the patriarch's extravagant (for the era) purchases. It's fun to try to guess the intended recipient of each gift.

DOLL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 CENTS

2DOLLS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 DOLLAR

BOOK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 CENTS

PERFUME. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 CENTS

STATIONERY. . . . . . . . . . . . 45 CENTS

TOY HORN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 CENTS

BLOCKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 CENTS

It's easy to picture the family clustered around the tree on Christmas morning. They probably sang carols or read about the birth of Jesus in Luke 2. Things were simpler then, quieter and more tranquil. In olden times, the world had not yet become proficient at robbing the day of its real meaning.

For some people, this is a hard season. Heartbreak, loss, or a terrible memory has been associated with the holiday. If this is you, maybe sadness comes because the rest of the world appears full of life, while your own hands hold onto thin air or a dying dream and no one seems to care. Yet just the other side of false assumption waits the sturdy arms of a Perfect Father offering humanity the most valuable gift--his Son. Achieved at great cost to Him, this beautiful present is available to everyone. Amazingly, you cannot qualify for the gift in any way. Only believe. What an exciting but peaceful adventure life becomes when you do, although I know it sounds like a paradox. Blessings are headed your way. And if you've already received the Gift and put it away, forgotten, on a high shelf in a back bedroom closet, take the box down. Have a seat on the nearby mattress. Lift the box lid and peer inside. . . . I know what you're thinking. You've had some failures. But the Gift remains yours. No doubt, "good" living is a reward in itself and saves us from much self-imposed misery; however, there's still no measuring up for this present. No one ever has and no one ever will. So kick the idea of worthiness, or lack of the same, under the bed. Then let your hands raise your Gift from the box. Spend time thinking about the tremendous love that was willingly poured out for you, to place you in a permanent and glorious family. I guarantee your focus will stay in that happy place on Christmas Day.

The greatest gift?  Someone gave all of Himself, to love you without end.

You!  And Me!

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and author of the Woodstock novel series.

The Bozeman home, circa 1910, was included in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article (1919) that highlighted Woodstock businesses and prominent residences. The exterior style showcases the asymmetrical placement of a tower-like extension at one front corner. A wide gabled porch, sporting wooden piers with brick pedestals, frames the inviting entry. A bay window on the side of the home draws light inside. Vertical panes of glass detail the upper sash, called "ribbon windows" at the turn-of-century. Shed dormers on the roof add a touch of playfulness. Inside, four fireplaces bestow cheer when winter approaches. Mellow pine floors add to the coziness.
When Dave and wife, Sarah, moved into their home, they probably had no idea how meaningful the sturdy dwelling would become to their daughters, affectionately referred to as the Bozeman sisters by Woodstock natives. Mildred married. Bonnie, Lola, and Sarah became area schoolteachers and happily remained in the home all their lives.

Below, a view of the Bozeman home today. You may be familiar with the current owners, Christine and Phil Blight, who also own Christine's Creations in Woodstock. For many years, their shop has been the go-to place for inspired decorating assistance. No one can merge vintage, contemporary and unique like Christine who has been guiding area residents on how to express the spirit of Woodstock, which is nature, hints of the town's agricultural past and warmth of family. The result of her creative magic is charm and casual elegance. Christine and Phil completed a renovation of the Bozeman home, begun by a preceding owner. Their primary goal was to preserve the antiquity of the home while expanding and updating the residence to fit modern life. What an artistic and winsome success!
(Click to enlarge photo)