There was a time, believe it or not, when my family was not poor, and when Christmas, for this little girl, was a big event. For many years I have been blessed with good health, family, and friends at Christmas time. But when I was a child, I was truly blessed.
You see I had a big brother, a blessing in itself. And that big brother worked in a local hardware store in our town. The store had a large balcony around what would have been a second floor. And at Christmas time that balcony had all the toys any child could wish for. I was allowed to go up there with my brother and choose things I would like to have. He then had an idea as to what to tell my parents to buy for me. I think I thought he was telling Santa Claus. Big brothers don’t lie to little sisters at Christmas time.
On Christmas I did that was the Christmas of 1950, when we lived on George Street in Anderson. That was the Christmas morning my mother always liked to recount. I do remember it myself, however. I remember waking up in my bed, which was set in an alcove at the top of the stairs between the two bedrooms. It was early, still dark outside, but it was Christmas morning, and I wanted to see what had been left for me under the tree downstairs. So I quietly got up and went down to look. Not to touch, but just to look. I was amazed at the things set out for me under the tree. Then I turned around and went back upstairs, back to bed, and back to sleep. Several hours later my mother woke me with a shake, telling me to get up and come and see what Santa had left. I told her that was okay, that I had already been downstairs and looked. I don’t think she was that upset, but I knew she had wanted to see my face when I saw it all for the first time.
After that, we moved to the country, my big brother went to Korea, and we endured a Christmas without him. When he came home, he got married and started his own family, and we four became we eight. (Two of those children will grace my mother’s altar table tomorrow, along with their mother, but that big brother has passed on, as have both my parents. I was fortunate to have them as long as I did.)
Things changed drastically for my father’s work in 1956, and while we were never homeless, in the few years after that, it was very rough going. One year during that time, I remember going to the local trading stamps store and getting one thing for Christmas, because we had so little money. It was during that time that the incident I posted here last year, about my father and the Christmas tree, happened.
Times were tough. But we managed, because we had the greatest gift of all, love. Yes, we moved around a lot, but I always knew that my parents loved me, and would never leave me, and that they would always be there for me. That’s what parents are for. At least in my world, at that time.
I’ve spent many happy Christmas days since. Some of the best have been with Harold, on Christmas Eve, at the church services. There are presents under the tree for me, and I have presents for Harold and the “kids”. Tomorrow we will gather, God willing, at Mother Mary’s altar table and be a family once again, with those who aren’t with us any longer watching over us. So you see, now I am the luckiest grown up in the world, for the greatest gifts, love and family, (in all of its definitions) is the greatest gift we are given.