"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime." Laura Ingalls Wilder
Having my shop closed during this time of the year, I have some (be it little) time to sit and relax. I have been mulling over some childhood Christmas memories, and found that my memory is fading a bit. I guess that is a common malady of older adults. In a way, I'm glad that some memories fade. I would hate to hold on to sad memories or frightening memories in any detail! So, I see that the memories I now carry are happy ones; just not great in number!
When pressed, I can remember those sadder ones, coming from hardships and rough times. But, even those can easily be interpreted as being fond and filled with blessings, after the fact.
Even though I was born after the times of the "Great Depression", I can remember that my family was still suffering from economic downturns. While I can't remember a day when I didn't have a meal to eat, I can recall a number of meals which were far from being termed "Balanced". I can remember opening the small gas-powered refrigerator in the kitchen, only to find there was very little in it. I suppose the bare necessities were there, but to a growing boy, there wasn't any special, desired treat awaiting. I can remember being served store-bought white bread, spread with molasses or a ketchup sandwich; because there was nothing else in the house. Not knowing any better, and trusting my family to care for me, I thought this was normal fare. I had no idea that other families had more to eat or better quality foods in their homes.
I can't recall ever going to bed hungry. I'm not sure that the adults in my family could say that. I suspect that they did without some meals, just so that I could be served.
The same sort of sacrifices were made by my family at Christmastime. I was never lacking in toys given to me by my family.
As I grew to adulthood, I discussed some of the history of my family with my elders. I learned that my great grandparents had raised my mother as well as all their own children. During the Depression, my great grandfather was the bread winner of the extended family. He went out to work, not accepting charity, food stamps or any sort of unemployment monies. Since most everyone was in the same boat, (economically speaking) there weren't a lot of jobs available. I was told that some weeks he only came home with ten cents for a whole day's work; and sometimes even less! I'm happy to say, he taught me his work ethics. I was about 6 years old when he died. I lived in the same house, being raised by my great aunt and uncle as well as him and my great grandmother.
I wouldn't trade my childhood for any other! Those were the years that shaped my character.
I feel sorry for those who grow up in a home where love is not seen in any way. While my family was not big on hugging, kissing, or an outward expression of love; their love was always felt. Not only did I observe it in how they treated me and other family members, but I could see it in the way they treated neighbors, friends, and all others.
By the time I came onto the scene, those elders were on the decline. I can't say that their spirits were broken, but maybe they just grew weary in well-doing as the years advanced. I had heard stories of the fabulous Christmas celebrations of the past. Each year, they had a Christmas feast, with cooked goose and a table full of food. They had saved throughout the year to have that meal. They had the whole family visiting at Christmas. They would all gather in the parlor, around the piano. My grandmother, great aunt and great grandmother would play together, with the piano, violin and mandolin. They played Christmas tunes and popular music, singing and making merry, each evening during Christmastime.
But, in my day, all that was left was a mandolin, tucked away in the closet. The only other enduring tradition was the annual Christmas tree. Many of the ornaments on the tree were family heirlooms, brought from the old country. But, as the story goes, it was during the worst of the Depression, that they lost their zeal for Christmas. While my family was struggling to make ends meet, the local church (to which they belonged) came to the door, insisting that our family commit to giving more, so that the pastor could keep up his lavish lifestyle. (At least this is how the story was told.) And from this, they stopped going to church. When that happened, they lost their love for Christmas celebrations.
As I grew up, I was sent to church. They knew that it was necessary for me to discover faith, even though they refused to attend church themselves. This was the foundation that I needed to make that commitment to my faith and be born again! And I am happy to say, that later in life, I was able to share that faith with my great aunt, great uncle and my mother. I believe that witness had its effect on them and that they left this world with renewed faith is Christ. (But I don't know that for certain - nobody ever really knows what is in another person's heart.)
I guess my conclusions draw me to believe that the Lord had a special plan in my intersection in the lives of the family in which He placed me. We all have some effect on those around us; be it good or bad! It all comes from your heart. Is your heart right with the Lord? I pray that you will have a good effect on those around you; especially during Christmastime. And I pray that you keep wonderful, happy memories during Christmastime as well. Merry Christmas! From the Old Man in the Bib Overalls