December 14, 2011
Teachers share their memories of the holidays pre-electronics…
One Christmas when I was around 3 years old, I received a tea party set. I remember my Grandma, who I called Ball-Ball because I couldn’t saw Maw-Maw, would always play tea party with me. I remember we would sit outside on the back porch for what seems like hours. I treasure those memories. A couple days before she passed away (when she was 96), I mentioned our tea parties together and she smile and squeezed my hand even though she did not open her eyes. This Christmas gift brought so many wonderful memories for Ball-Ball and I.
I looked up as I tore the first piece of brightly colored newsprint. There was a gentle happiness in her steel grey eyes as she watched me carefully peel away the wrapping. Every year my great grandmother, “Nanny”, gave us a few dollars in a card with the message “Spend this on something special just for you!” Nanny lived through the Great Depression and knew the value of a few dollars to spend on anything you wanted. This year was different though, there was a box wrapped in comics to be opened and Nanny expectantly looking on. I gingerly placed the torn strips of paper beside my chair and lifted the top of the box to reveal the contents. Tears spilled down my cheek as I pulled out a soft green apron. Every stitch, from the ruffled shoulders to the cavernous pocket on the front to my initials lovingly embroidered on the chest, had been hand-sewn by Nanny. Memories of summers spent with her rolling dough on her yellow, Formica-topped kitchen table, trailing after her through the garden as we collected rhubarb and cucumbers, swinging on her front porch as we enjoyed our homemade buttermilk donuts floated around me like whispers of flour in the air. I slid my arms through the openings and tied the delicate green apron strings around my waist. I felt her fragile arms encircle me with all the love I knew went into making that apron. She had made “something special just for me” that was so much more important than a few dollars.
Every detail of that Christmas remains emblazoned in my mind. My family’s house had burned down in November and we lost everything, except each other. The apron Nanny made me with fingers almost too old to hold a needle and thread, was a special gift that reminded me to appreciate what I had rather than dwell on what was lost. I have a new apron now, but every time I pull it out of the drawer, I think of those summers with Nanny making crabapple jam, blackberry pie and sweet pickles.
This is a photo of me from 1960 and a story that I wrote about the photo probably when I was in third or fourth grade (1962-3):
“On Christmas morning 1960 I got out of my bed and went into the parlor. There were all the Christmas presents… in the afternoon my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and my grandmother’s boss Harold came over. He gave me a box. I couldn’t wait to open it. Inside there were three dolls. There was a dress for each one. All day I played with the dolls. Later on, my mother took a picture with my three dolls on the table beside me. These were the best playmates I ever had!”
In the picture, notice that we stenciled “Santa” on the window with fake spray snow and hung real icicle tinsel on the tree. The dollhouse on the floor was from Santa…when I got older I used it as a “barracks” for the Army men to play “Men” with my younger brother. We didn’t call it “War” because we already played a game by that name.
Christmas – 1961 – age 6
The hottest new toy out, straight from Hot-lanta, Georgia, was this toy robot which was remotely controlled. That was a big deal back in 1961! It did not work too terribly well on the hard winter soil, but it worked pretty well on old, worn, thin carpeting, like the kind in my grandmother’s house which was built around the turn of the 20th century. Our family could never have afforded as lavish a gift as this, but my uncle was far more financially stable then we were. At that time I thought of him as one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Well, I don’t know if this counts [as a great Christmas memory] because it is so wrong… Every Christmas families would gather for a candle light vigil and then go on a horseback pulled sleigh ride around Bent Mountain. One year, these three black labs hunted and dismembered a deer in the front yard. The older teenagers i.e. me, placed a red ball among the carcass parts and we proceed to tell the little kids that Santa was not going to make it this year because that was Rudolph in the front yard. Yes, I did get punished for this trick because all the little kids started crying…