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Remembering my favorite Christmas
Rainy Days and Starry NightsDecember 4, 2013 | 1,282 views | 1 comment
This is one of my favorite Christmas stories. It was the Christmas of 1953. We were living in a small garage apartment, and putting the tree up in the corner of the living room, on a small library table that was in the furnished apartment. Using electric Christmas lights to shine through the window, I felt my heart warm as we drove down the graveled driveway to park underneath our apartment. It was our very own tree.
We had invited all of Eddie’s family over the week before to have a tree decorating party. His mother came -- I always called her Mom, she was a wonderful mother-in-law. I could always count on her to take my side if Eddie and I disagreed on anything. She loved everyone and me too, and I loved her. Well, everyone loved Vivian Wauson. The party was fun, with eggnog, coffee, wine coolers, Mom’s favorite cookies, and homemade fudge. Lessie and Richard and little Dickie came too. So did Eddie’s brother and sister-in-law. Lessie was kinda like my best friend. I had lived with them the summer I graduated from high school, and came to San Antonio to live and work. I can probably give Richard and Lessie the credit for giving Eddie a push in my direction and a bug in his ear about how crazy I was about him! But that is another story!
Eddie’s brother Willie, or Jr., came to the tree decorating party too. The Wauson parties were not a party unless Jr. came. He was fun to have around. We had decorated the tree, laughed, thrown icicles in each other’s hair, eaten cookies and fudge, and laughed as Eddie sang “Deck the Halls” in his off-key voice. Turning out all the lights, we all sat back and oohed and aahed at the soft glow of the colored lights. Trent, who was two years old, sat and gaped at the beautiful little tree.
Later, after everyone had gone home and Trent was asleep, Eddie and I sat on the old couch in the dark, watching the lights of the tree. Christmas would be here in another week, and I already knew what I would get my husband. A new wallet to replace the old ragged one he had in his pocket. I wondered what he had in mind to get me!
Then in a week, it was Christmas Eve and Eddie carried Trent in from the car, up the steep stairs to the apartment. I had taken his warm pajamas with the feet in them over to the Wausons’ for their annual Christmas Eve get-together. I felt all warm and happy and comfortable coming into my own little place, putting my child to bed in his crib, and then going in to get the few things out we had been able to afford to get him for Christmas. I had the wallet all wrapped and put the package under the tree. I knew Trent would like his building blocks and fire truck, and his popcorn-popper pull toy. There were several books lying under the tree. He loved books.
Now, it was time for Eddie to get his present for me and put it under the tree. I walked into the little bedroom off the alcove in the kitchen, to get ready for bed. He had hidden the gift under the apartment in the garage somewhere. My mind was going over all the hints I had given him the past several weeks. I needed a warm robe. Comfy houseshoes would be nice. I was just about out of the Chantilly Lace perfume he had given me the year before. I used it sparingly to make it last. He knew it was my favorite!
I heard him tramping up the stairs, and coming in the door, and when things were quiet I came out in my nightgown anticipating seeing the little gift-wrapped package. Maybe it was earrings? But there sat a large package. It was wrapped in bright green paper with a red bow. He must have had Joske’s Department Store gift-wrap it! But it was so big! What in the world was it? I would have to wait for morning, he said.
The next morning after Trent had squealed and laughed over all his toys and books, and we sat drinking our coffee, watching him, Eddie opened his gift, the wallet. He said he really liked it. Now it was my turn to open the gift. I couldn’t imagine what it was! When I tore off the final wrapping, there sat a box that said “Singer Sewing Machine” on the side. He had bought me a sewing machine. It had not come from Joske’s but from the Singer Sewing Store across from the Alamo. I knew how expensive it was, and we didn’t have much money, and began to wonder, but he assured me he was paying it out on time.
My heart sank, because a sewing machine was the last thing I ever wanted. I hated to sew. My mother sewed all my life. She made all our clothes. Sometimes with store-bought cloth, most of the times from bright printed feed sacks. I did not want any more homemade clothes. I wanted store-bought clothes. I was 22 years old, and wasn’t about to learn to sew!
Eddie was so happy and excited so I tried to act really thrilled about it. He showed me the 10 free lessons that came with the sewing machine. Where did he ever get the idea I wanted to sew? Well, I cheered up that Christmas morning, as we got ready to go over to his family’s house for Christmas dinner and opening more gifts. I guess I would have to learn to sew. I couldn’t let him know how disappointed I was in the gift.
The next Christmas we were living in our new home on Trudell Drive on the north side of San Antonio. It was an exciting Christmas, a Christmas in our new home. We had Julie now, a new baby daughter six months old! And Trent was wearing his new flannel pajamas that I had made for him on my sewing machine!
That year I had gone to all the sewing classes, and learned to sew. I messed up and botched many articles of clothing. I ripped and tore out seams and made big mistakes in cutting material. I was determined to learn to sew. I began to love that sewing machine. I made curtains for the house, shirts for Eddie, dresses for me, dresses for my little girls, shirts and shorts for my little boys, pajamas for all the children. I learned to cover furniture, and made pillow covers, and mended and repaired clothes and linens and learned to make buttonholes and became an expert seamstress. I loved to sew.
The Christmas present I received that year in our last year at the tiny garage apartment became one of the best presents I ever got. I am sure if my husband had not given me the sewing machine as a gift, I would never have gone out to buy one on my own. I didn’t think I wanted one. But somehow he knew what I really wanted. Something to use to bring out the creativity in me. What a blessed Christmas that was!
Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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