A rosy sky dawned over northeastern Alabama on Monday, and Christmas had begun.
Store parking lots that a day before had been busy with last-minute shoppers now were empty. Cars instead crammed many a driveway in the Anniston area, as families gathered to exchange gifts and share a meal.
A stiff breeze blew cold in the early afternoon, but the clear sky drew some outside to play. On Sugarloaf Lane, the Gidley and Carpenter families were celebrating with front-yard golf.
Rowland Gidley, 54, had been gifted a set of clubs, while his 27-year-old son Maverick Gidley got a new driver. Maverick had only recently taken up golf, and was getting the rest of the family into it, too.
“It’s challenging, but it’s fun,” Maverick said.
Rowland’s daughter, Makaila Gidley, 19, and her fiance, Hayden Carpenter, swung at small plastic pipe joints — actual golf balls would have flown too far, they said.
It was important to note, Makaila said, that they were new at this.
“We are not professionals,” her voice dropping in mock seriousness.
Afterward, they planned to head inside for Christmas dinner — including ham, sweet potatoes and carrots.
It would be the first Christmas meal in Carpenter’s new house. The 21-year-old had just bought the single-story, yellow-brick home on Friday. That wasn’t his first Christmas milestone — he and Makaila were engaged on Christmas Eve in 2015. The wedding is planned for March.
At Choccolocco Park, 24-year-old Abishek Purohit was gathering with members of his extended family for a little time outdoors. They’d all been together — about 15 in all, some having traveled from Nashville, Detroit and Memphis — under one roof for a few days. As with many families, food was at the center of the holiday experience.
“I’ve been in a constant state of digestion,” Purohit said before the family group took off for a lap on the trail around the park’s pond.
Coming around the pond in the other direction were Christy and Eddie Dempsey, atop matching blue bikes they’d gotten each other for Christmas. The Munford couple were enjoying the morning together before catching up later with their children and two grandchildren.
Eddie, who’s 52, said he and Christy, 49, like to stay fit.
“This is what we’re doing trying to keep up with the grandkids,” he said.