Another Yuletide season is coming and I guess we are almost ready. Yesterday Dad put on his snowshoes, grabbed his axe and headed off into the forest. He seldom gets out of sight of the house before he finds something green and growing upright. If he were hunting a deer, Ma says, he would be gone forever, but she gives him ten minutes to find our Christmas tree and haul it home.
As soon as he gets it in the yard, he takes off his snowshoes, sticks them in the snowbank and grabs his buck saw. Sticks his head in the door, cases the corner for height and width and goes back out to saw at least a quarter of the tree off so it can come in the front door, make a sharp left turn and be deposited in the same corner it has been since I can remember. Then off to the outdoors again and ten minutes later, in he comes with two boards nailed in the shape of an X and hammer in hand, the tree is somehow anchored and upright. Ma grabs the piece of clothes line and winds it around the nail in the top of the window sill , around the top of the tree and on to the other window sill. There, Dad has done his Christmas duties and he is through with the holiday.
I don’t get very excited any more except I look forward to the orange in the bottom of our stockings. Gram Martin will have knitted us a new hat and pair of mittens and what a treat that is to wear something new and warm to school.
Our friend, Winnie Hanscom, sent over a box of her home made candy which tastes like Needhams but is home made starting with mashed potatoes and coconut she says. The top is covered with melted chocolate and it is ever so good!
There is the usual humbugging from Dad every time he goes by the tree and an icicle clings to his flannel shirt. I can never remember his getting very enthused about any holiday, but he does go to see Lester Cole at Thanksgiving and Christmas to get us a chicken for our holiday dinner.
Dad does not shop or at least not that I know about. Ma does what little shopping is done and spends Christmas eve wrapping the gifts on the kitchen table. We know as we can hear all the rustling of the paper and sometimes I try to imagine that I am getting something very expensive I liked in the Sears Christmas catalog. I know that isn’t going to happen, but it’s fun to pretend.
For about two weeks before Christmas, Curt sits at the kitchen table and writes a little note to Santa each night by the light of the Aladdin lamp. I help him spell the words and when he’s done, I fold it up and put it on the sill of the window which is thick with heavy white frost. I asked Curt once what he wrote and he told me it was a secret and only Santa would know and why didn’t I write my own note. After that, I just helped him do his own and never asked a question!!
Grampa Libby will come on Christmas Day with his grain sack over his shoulder with gifts for us kids. He had to quit school when he was in the third grade to work in the woods to help his family, Ma says, so he can’t read or write much. Ma always takes the bag and goes into the bedroom and wraps and puts tags on the things he brings. I love Grampa very much and his smile crinkles up around his eyes and the snow melts off his beard as he stands by the wood stove to warm his hands. He has a heavy long black coat but still it is a long walk from his house on the other side of Rowe Hill to our house just to bring presents and eat dinner with us. Usually Dad takes him home if we have a car that has good tires and the weather is not too bad.
There are two gifts I remember Dad buying and neither were for me. I think it is because they were so unusual and unexpected. We got up Christmas morning and Dad disappeared outside after breakfast and came in with something hidden under his coat. I thought I heard a noise and he said, this is for you, Curt and out came the cutest little puppy ever!! Well, that was a surprise not only for us kids, but Ma as well. I am sure she was wondering if there was room for a puppy who would grow into a dog in this little house. Well, that dog was Keno, which Dad had already named.
The other gift was for Ma and she said, I just cannot imagine what this can be as she unwrapped it. We kids stood around her as she took off the wrapping and she was so surprised she was speechless. I think we all were and Dad was grinning from ear to ear. He bought Ma a pair of cowgirl boots or maybe cowboy boots. I don’t know. I never saw them after that morning. Ma kept smiling and gave her thanks, but I don’t think she had any visions of riding a horse or moving to the wild west right away.
That is why when the choir at the church sings “Do you see what I see?”..I keep thinking that was the way we all felt the day Ma unwrapped her cowboy boots. Christmas is sure an unpredictable time in the Martin house.