It happens every year at this time. When the Christmas decorations start appearing and I see trees riding on the car tops, my mind goes back to all the Christmas memories in and around Greenwood, Maine.
As I’ve said, we had very little in material offerings. The school Christmas tree was such a highlight. It didn’t matter what we received from the tree, but oh the excitement of drawing names and the anticipation of that very day. I awoke so early on that school day and you just knew it was going to be a different day. No annoying classes..well there were a few but the teacher was wise enough to know we could not concentrate. A few select students were asked to pass out the gifts from the spindly little tree and oh! how we held our collective breaths. Would we get a gift? Did someone draw our name? Then that wonderful moment when one was laid on the desk top and you knew you had not been forgotten!! A pencil, a pad of paper, crayons, barrettes for your hair…it was a wonderful day and made going home to the cold chores so much easier!
Ma brought us up right. If there is one rule she instilled in us that has stayed with me through the ages: it is the thought and not the gift that counts. My youngest brother, Curt, got very excited when Christmas came upon us and I might find a favorite stone he picked up in summer, wrapped under the tree for me.
My first Christmas away from home was hard…my husband and I were living with his parents the first winter. Oh, the Christmas day that was observed! The family was big and they were all there joining in a huge Christmas feast. I thought of all the years the kitchen in the little house was alive with my three brothers and me , with Ma and Dad sitting at the kitchen table watching us unwrap what gifts we had. There was no Christmas feast, but Ma did her best to cook something a little special so we would know that it was a special day. It might be a special cake, pie or maybe we might even have a ham…a lot of bone, if I remember, but an honest to goodness ham!
As the crowd celebrated, my mind went back to the little house and I wondered if Dad liked the bureau scarf I had embroidered. My mother-in-law insisted I learn to embroider and crochet that winter, so I found a scarf with a deer head on each end. I worked on it every evening, after working at Ekco Wood Products, and finished it a few days before the holiday. To even things up, I crocheted edgings around three hankies for my mother. I doubted she would use them, but be proud that her tom boy daughter actually held a crochet hook in her hand. Dad kept that scarf on his bureau until the day he died and today my youngest son has it in his keepsakes, so I guess I made the right choice. The scarf, back in those days, probably cost less than a dollar but the nights of work I put into it, made in Ma’s mind, a perfect gift.
But back to the little house for a minute… of course we had no electricity, so there were no shiny bulbs for us to see, but in the evening the light from the Aladdin lamp shone off the icicles( saved from the year before) and the tree came alive every night. Paper chains wound around it here and there and old tin ornaments came down from the attic to make it complete.
The orange in the toe of our stockings was eaten slowly and appreciated. How I loved ribbon candy …when it was paper thin and easy to devour!!
Our ornaments we made at school were proudly displayed on the tree as if they had come from the most costly department store…it was a true Charlie Brown tree( before we knew of Charlie Brown) held up by rope so it wouldn’t topple. The frosty window sill held the nightly notes to Santa that Curt printed. Oh, it was a magic time..maybe because it was so simple. I don’t know the answer. I just know that Ma was right when she said that it was the thought that counted.