Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mom's Christmas

Delilah Smith - Onsted

Mom loved to write. I don't know how much she actually wrote; much of it was on paper and in wire binders and is now lost to us. Some few stories actually survived as computer files and I have the ones that I could find.

This is my Mom's story of Christmas, in her own words.

Christmas at home began right after the Thanksgiving weekend as my grandmother would start to bake her wonderful fruit cake. She made many of these cakes and I think gave some of them away as gifts. She made them in the big round bottomed dough pan that she used when she made bread for the family. They were also baked in the bread pans and wrapped in brown paper. I think she probably basted them from time to time with something but I don't remember for sure. We kids were pressed into service as the raisins were ground and nuts were chopped. The kitchen smelled delightfully of cloves, cinnamon, and ginger for ever so long.

The catalogues (wish books) were given to the kids to look at and we knew we could choose a gift for Santa to bring us for Christmas. What a lot of fun deciding on that special gift. But the flip side of this was, if you became really naughty, Santa would leave you a bundle of switches in your stocking and your gift would go to some more worthy child. And oh, it was so hard to be good as the time crept by so slowly and the tension built to a higher level every day. More that once I was told my stocking would hold nothing but switches.

The last few days before Christmas the tree was put up in the parlor and decorated. How beautiful it was! The fire was lighted in the stove in that special room and it was flooded with that cosy, tranquil warmth that only the Christmas season seems to bring. It was wonderful fun just to sit in the parlor and stare at this beautiful tree.

I was also watching the road for a car that would be bringing my mother home for the Holiday. Without her Christmas just wouldn't be. Quite often this would be a cliff hang wait and I would be so anxious that I would even listen in the night for her arrival. But when she arrived the world would suddenly be beautiful again.

Christmas eve night would be spent in fitful sleep, listening to the old mantel clock chime out the hours. Then suddenly it would be-Christmas morning, the biggest day of the year. We would fly downstairs to see if Santa had come. And he did, he really did. There were presents under the tree as if by magic. Some one would be Santa's helper and read the names on the boxes. And sure enough, the special gift you had picked out in the catalogue was there. After the furor of the gift exchanges, while the glow was still with us, my grandmother would serve breakfast. And there would be orange juice. Only the rich people had orange juice for breakfast. Then it was back to earth for awhile as we left the table for the barn to milk the cows and feed the animals. It was often hard to settle down to the basic chores after so much excitement.

After the chores were done we would return to a house filled with busy confusion. The dining room table had been extended as far as possible with the addition of all the leaves in. White linen table clothes covered its old wooden top and it was set with my grandmother's china dishes. Dinner was cooking on all the stove burners. Now people began coming to the house. Uncle Jim and Aunt Jennie arrived, my grandmothers brother and his wife. Uncle Jim would shout, "Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas" so loudly that I thought the rafters would ring. My uncle George and Aunt Ona would arrive. I believe my Uncle Jerry and Uncle Dwight were still at war in Europe. (The Second World War) As the day progressed Neola and John and their son Leslie would arrive. They were Uncle Jim and Aunt Jennie's children and usually the last ones to come to dinner. My Aunt Jennie was in from Detroit as was my mother. Uncle Don, his son Robert and sometimes Aunt Aquila his wife would come. The house was filled with noisy chatter and laughter as my grandfather and grandmother greeted each guest with gusto. My two aunts, Ida and Jean Ann were still at home. They were about our age with Jean Ann only one year older than myself. She would probably sit in the kitchen with myself and two sisters, Anita and Janice. The big table would be filled with already too many people.

Usually John would say the grace. He was quite long winded and we would grow pretty restless before Amen was finally said. In the kitchen we would usually have first choice of the platters and bowls of food as my aunts and mother went back and forth between kitchen and table. There was such an abundance of everything, including many pies and cakes. And again I don't remember who cleared the table and did the dishes. We returned to playing with our new things when the meal was ended.

Slowly the day came to a close as people began to leave for their own homes. There were the evening chores to do on the farm, with the cows to milk again and the livestock to be cared for and bedded down for the night. When I returned to the house I would curl up in the old wicker rocker near the stove and soak in the beauty of the lighted tree. It was a day to be cherished and remembered. And its magic is still with me.

This story is dedicated to my Grandmother, Ma, who made all this possible. So belated thanks Ma for all the Christmases that you made possible for all of us.

Love, Me

That's one story of the few I have. Mom made all our Christmas times special at our house(s), too. We didn't have a glowing fireplace in an old brick farmhouse, but we always had the same hustle and bustle on Christmas morning. Thanks Mom.


  1. Thanks for your Mom's story. In my minds eye I can picture all those relatives gathered around that extended table in a too small kitchen. My mother said when she was dating my father that scene was repeated every Sunday,all the aunts and uncles and cousins, brothers and sisters came to eat at "ma's" or Grandma Elston's or Gramma Minnie's. They didn't have much but the table was always set with lots of love. The old mantle clock she mentions still chimes-Lee had it restored and it sits on his mantle now. Thanks again for sharing her memories ml

  2. Thanks for including Mom's story here. I think she told us bits and pieces of it throughout the years when we were growing up. She always enjoyed being around family during the holidays and I remember all the food we would have at those times. That tradition seems to have faded over the years. It also reminded me of the back porch at the house on Maple St. Now I know why that pot bellied stove was one of the essential components for that porch when she was planning it out. I have to admit I loved sitting on that porch with the stove going and the snow coming down outside. Talk about tranquility. Anyway, thanks for sharing a small piece of Mom's spirit to allow it to live on.

  3. I have a few more stories that Mom wrote, but this one seemed timely. Over the next few months I'll post the better, more complete ones.
    Mary - I remember Grandma Minnie. I might have mentioned that in an earlier post. I knew about the clock; I'm glad Lee got it.
    Dave - that back porch was a perfect place. When people ask me which was my favorite Christmas, I always describe that last one where we were all together, on the back porch. The fire was going and Smokey just laid near me and radiated happiness. That was a good time, forever.