Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Speaking of Christmas

While growing up, money was scarce in our household. One year, there was so little of it that my family received a charity box from church; it was full of treasures, including a new tugboat dress my size—with two older sisters, I always wore hand-me-downs!—and a 45 record to match. Now, that’s something you don’t see every day, and I wore that dress proudly. 

Don’t get me wrong. My parents, hard-working farmers, always put food on the table. But, at times, they simply couldn’t afford luxuries. Because of that—and maybe due also to good, old-fashioned common sense—we children received one Christmas present every year. Picture me crying in the closet after receiving a chicken incubator in the seventh grade—not that it wasn’t nice of my parents to remember my admiration for someone’s Science Fair project the previous spring. But girls change a lot at that age, and the idea of raising chicks had flown the coop some months earlier! The disappointment was more than I could bear, yet I knew enough not to show it—thus, the closet. Unfortunately, the distress didn’t end there. Year after year as Christmas came and went, I had to endure returning to school where other girls listed their many acquisitions and wore their new sweaters.

Envy notwithstanding, later Christmas presents made up for that sad year: an electric blanket for a frigid bedroom one year, a coveted set of electric curlers another, luggage—I can only assume my parents were as anxious as I for me to move away from the farm—and, best of all because of its endurance and its origination, a cedar chest built at our school shop (by someone other than my brother. I wonder who?).  I still own it to this day.

That chest has seen me through many Christmases since my childhood with only one leaving me in tears—the year I had hoped for a diamond ring and received a mixer instead. Despite that temporary setback, I still have both the original mixer and the man who bought it for me. The chest, the Sunbeam, the marriage . . . I love things that endure.

Speaking of enduring,  my parents, married for nearly 60 years, never got the credit from me they deserved. They worked hard and talked little; being the middle child who moved away at an early age, I never really knew them. But I do know that they did what they could and they loved each of us. The thought they put into our single Christmas gift stands out as a tribute to that love.
And they taught me the important lesson of frugality. I generally hate shopping and dislike knicknacks on principle. But, just like many folks these days, I can’t claim complete restraint at Christmas. That in addition to the generosity of doting aunts and uncles, contributed to a mound of presents under the tree. Because of this, I'm not at all sure my children can say, “I remember the Christmas I got . . . ."
But, even if they can't, I know they felt the love.


  1. What a beautiful post. Glad I found your blog, Bonita, and thanks so much for looking at mine!

  2. Thanks, Jody. I consider that high praise, coming from you!