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Memories of Christmas past, 1943
Rainy Days and Starry NightsDecember 18, 2013 | 1,426 views | Post a comment
The wind was icy and cold as it whipped around my legs in the cow pen as I milked the cow. My fingers grew numb and cold as the wind hit them, and I nudged my hand farther into her udder to warm my hands. It was Dec. 23, 1943. I finished milking and then went over to milk the other cow, while Junior finished up with his two cows. Then we headed for the house with our buckets full of milk sloshing out onto our jeans.
It was dark by then, and we had to have a kerosene lantern with us. After all, it was December and it got dark early. As we headed toward the house, we could see the glow of the light in the kitchen and the bedroom window. I could smell the wood smoke drifting up from the house. We came in and the smell of hot bread and rolls filled the house. Mother was at the stove frying ham. The smell was so good. Daddy had butchered a hog a couple weeks ago, and we would be eating ham, pork chops, and sausage for a while.
We would have scrambled eggs, and ham and hot rolls for supper. With the big glasses of fresh milk, we would all go to bed with full stomachs tonight. We set the long table and all the kids sat on the two long benches on either side, with Mother and Daddy at each end. The kitchen felt warm with all the people in it, and the potbellied cast iron heater gave out waves of heat as we shed our coats and prepared to eat.
The little kids began talking about Santa Claus coming tomorrow night. I looked around the table with seven of us kids (this was before Sammy was born), and Mother and Daddy, and knew that Santa Claus had a lot of work to do. I had quit believing in Santa Claus quite a while ago, but when I remembered those times I used to believe, it made me happy. I wanted the little ones to believe too. I helped them with their imagination.
When I was very young, there was always a doll for each of the girls, if only a little rubber doll, under the tree on Christmas morning. I loved the smell of the new baby dolls every Christmas. But this year I was too old for dolls, and wanted my very own Nancy Drew mystery book, (one I wouldn’t have to take back to the bookmobile), and an autograph book.
I knew things were a little better this Christmas. The peanut crop was better this year, and Mother was able to order some things from the Sears Roebuck catalog. I saw her one night, from my bed in the bedroom, and the door was ajar into the kitchen as she sat at the table, a cigarette in her hand, writing things down as she pored over the big thick catalog. She brushed her hair back from her eyes, looking tired, and picked up her coffee cup, took a swallow and then a puff on her cigarette.
Later, it was quiet in the bedroom and as I lay next to my two sisters in bed with me I shivered with the excitement of Christmas Eve tomorrow. I heard Mother and Daddy talking about going to town to get a Christmas tree tomorrow. I could hear the wind whistling through the cracks in the house, and snuggled down under the big quilts Mother had spent so many hours piecing together and quilting. I heard Daddy banking the coals in the stove, in anticipation of starting a new fire in the morning, and the house got quieter, as everyone settled down to sleep. I could feel the cold creeping in the room, as the kitchen was the only one that got any heat. The bedroom was cold, but at least the door was open to let in some heat from the other room.
The next day, Christmas Eve, Mother and Daddy went to town and bought a few things along with a tiny tree. Excitedly, we did our chores, and ate supper and then we all helped Mother decorate the tree with homemade ornaments of colored paper garlands and strings of popcorn and cranberries, and a few priceless glass ornaments and little candles that clipped on the branches of the tree. We found some icicles saved from last year, and hung them on the branches. Mother made some eggnog and let us all have a cup. Then the candles on the tree were lit, and we turned out the lights. I sat there staring at the little tree with the lights flickering on it, the icicles glistening with the lights on them, and everything in the world seemed so far away. I sat there with my younger brothers and sisters on the benches next to the wood heater as Mother handed out sugar cookies. Mother and Daddy sat at the kitchen table smoking and drinking their eggnog and Mother got up to make a pot of coffee, as someone said, “Let’s sing ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Silent Night.’” Our voices rang out in the little house as we all sang. I wished time would stand still and the feelings would last forever.
Time did not stand still, but the memories lasted forever. And they are still there today. I thank God the good memories are clearer than the bad memories of a large family growing up during the Depression years trying to survive. I have lots of good memories. Christmastime holds some of my favorite ones.
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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