When I think of Christmas, it always brings me back to my roots. A daughter of a policeman, family of 5, in the 1950-s, in a quiet place called Fort Worth, Texas. You know being poor is a good thing. It makes you appreciate what you do have. My mother was a housewife and her work was at home. She sewed all of the girls clothing, participated in school PTA, was an active voice in the community. We had a house with all wood floors, a gas free standing cook stove, one bath with a 4 legged tub and one sink, one mirror. Our house was built by my father by hand. He purchased a large lot with a one-room house with a huge front porch and converted it and built it into a 3-bedroom house with a separate 1200 foot garage he would use for a shop. The cost of the original house? $1200.00 of which he paid a mortgage of $25 per month.
Living on a limited income of a Fort Worth policeman, we were not given a lot of toys and things. At that time there were no computers, no cell phones, and I can remember when television just started appearing in households. I remember watching President John F. Kennedy being shot in front of my eyes in black and white as I was watching the motorcade passing by on the television. I was just 8 years old. Birthdays were celebrated with home-made cakes and very small presents such as a “record” or toy from the dime store. Our house was full of laughter and kids running and playing. We spent our days in the neighbors houses running and playing hide and seek, kick ball, soft-ball, swinging in a home-made swing set in the back yard and playing with our family pet. It was known between parents to send the visiting children home at supper time unless their parents allowed them to stay and eat with you.
Homework was done by the children as soon as getting home from school. We had gifts 2 times per year. Birthday and at Christmas. My parents carried out the Santa Clause theme and we generally had a real live Christmas tree in the house and it was all the way to the ceiling! The lights were large and multi-colored and it was so special to sit and look at the lights twinkling on the tree and dreaming of what Santa would bring.
The night before Christmas my parents put out cookies and chocolate milk for Santa. In the early morning hours when it was still dark, all of us would run to our living room to see what Santa had left! Excitement was in the air and we were always delighted. My parents made sure we got something we really wanted, but only a few items per child. They wrapped up gifts to and from each other and to us also, but generally, as a little one, nothing was under the tree until Christmas morning! That is when I would get new pajamas, a baby doll and one year a beautiful bike was under the tree with a basket and flowers. My brother would get new pants, shirts and perhaps a toy pop gun. My sister who was older would get something near and dear to her heart, clothes and perhaps a radio or a record album of the day. My dad would get house shoes and a robe and my mother would get some new clothing for herself. My Dad would buy her a nice piece of gold jewelry – he treated her very well. We spent the day playing with our toys until we couldn’t play any more. Then, our mother had the house filled with the smell of a full Christmas Dinner, turkey and old fashioned corn bread dressing, potatoes, chocolate pies with whipped cream, fruit salad and fresh baked rolls.
My mother would make sure the elderly in the neighborhood were taken care of and bring them a plate of food and perhaps a small token gift. We participated in putting together baskets for the elderly shut ins, generally would be fruit baskets at the church.
We saw people dropping by the house we hadn’t seen in some time and it was so much fun. In our house, you were always welcome and we always had enough food for a guest or more. We had many friends and the house was a buzz.
So, when the holidays come and go as I have grown older, I try to go back to those days and re-kindle the spirit of this season of joy.
Can’t turn back time, but I can keep in my heart the spirit of love we had for each other and make it a season where we make a special effort to let those around us know we love them. You can do that in many ways. It always means more if you make something for a gift. This season, try to just make some pumpkin bread, pecan pies, fudge, candied popcorn and delight someone that has nothing and no one. Make a special effort to let those around you know you care and get out of the hectic traffic, evening rush hour, crowded malls and into a personal visit to neighbors, friends and family, and don’t forget to think about children who believe in Santa but have little chance of their dreams coming true – help those that cannot help themselves.
Then when you read “the Night Before Christmas” to your child, perhaps you can regain some of the excitement with them you once had.
Make your Christmas be a Ho Ho Ho! full of love. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!