Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - December 17

December 17 - Grab Bag

Author's choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!

Today I'd like to reflect on those Christmases Past that have held special meaning for me.

Most of these Christmases are so special, because they were so spartan! Yep... we didn't have two wooden nickels to rub together, but the occasion was made doubly special because of that.

The first came the winter that I turned 14. My Dad was away in the Navy. There was an Israeli crisis and we didn't know when we would next get to see him. Somehow, his allotment for Mother and the two of us girls had got messed up and we were receiving NO income! Mother had quit her long standing job with the Fleet Post Office in August, and we had moved to the mountains of West Virginia. Dad would be eligible for retirement in just 2-1/2 more years, and Mother had settled us near Dad's native home. We loved the old house that Mother and Dad intended to update and remodel themselves. But, as we settled down, Dad's pay was lost.

We literally ate Jello every night for dinner. Mother asked if we could glean over the neighbor's potato field after they had dug their potatoes. We recalled Ruth in the Bible, as she gleaned the wheat from Boaz's fields. And low and behold, we gleaned over 3 bushels of small potatoes! We also picked wild poke leaves from the plants that grew in the field behind our house. Mother said everyone around us said the stalks were poisonous, but the Foxfire books, which we'd recently discovered, said we could cut up the stalks and fry them. And so we did. They reminded us of okra! The greens we'd make into salad, or boil and eat as you would spinach or dandelion greens. An old family friend worked in the railroad. He was at an advanced age and was given the unlikely job of sweeping out boxcars after they delivered raw peanuts. As he swept them out, he'd separate the dirt from raw peanuts left in the corners of the cars. The peanuts he would bag up and bring to us. These we would boil in salt water to eat by themselves; shell them and put them in the blender and make homemade peanut butter; crush them - add a little oil to make a paste - then add cornmeal and an egg and fry this up for a good source of protein; and we made candy as well [roast the shelled peanuts with a little sugar to glaze them and oila! instant candy!].

Our neighbor used to pick up outdated produce for just pennies and bring to us. Although we never told him we were having it so rough, he instantly figured it out and his kindness fed us many nights!

On that particular Christmas, Mother told us that Santa would only be able to bring us one gift that year. And that she and Dad could only give us one gift as well. Money was simply almost nil! [We were getting by solely on what little savings Mother had put up before the move!] She told us to write down ten gifts we would like [there was only my younger sister and I back then], and she would pick the two gifts between those ten items we listed. That way we wouldn't be able to tell which gifts we were getting, and yet they would be something we truly wanted.

I can't remember what my sister chose. But I remember what I got that year: a plaid wool shirt-jacket [this was the country and all the girls wore them in my school! Mother said they made them look like boys... but Santa brought me one all the same!]; and an Andy Williams Christmas album [a 33 LP - yep...even 8-tracks weren't popular yet!].

Mother managed to buy a big roasting hen, and sweet potatoes and cranberries and a pumpkin pie. We had a BIG dinner for us! And then we sat around and played charades and other games that afternoon!
I had to really hunt to find this old picture....

...yep that's me on the right, and my little sister on the left reading. Our very first Christmas in the house in Gap Mills. It was fabulous! We loved it! Two very small gifts, but we felt like we had it all!

That was the only economically challenged Christmas we had as we were growing up. Since then, I've faced many such Christmases.

When married to my first husband, one year he drew me a pencil drawing of a bouquet of flowers [he was not an artist!] for my Christmas gift. I kept that little drawing for many years and treasured it, because it was something he gave from himself. From the heart. Nothing could have ever meant more to me!

These are two of the Christmases that stand out in my memory because of the tough times. But they are treasured memories!

Did you ever have a Christmas when purchasing gifts was impossible? Did you substitute something instead?

Do you tend to give elaborately at Christmas today? Or do you try to keep it simple and from the heart?

1 comment:

Joan said...

So glad I stopped by today! Lovely stories. Thanks for a Christmas gift.