December 15, 2008

A Christmas Memory

There is something about this particular season that causes memories to be stirred, and the sense of loss to be felt more acutely.

Today would have been my precious little Mama's birthday. To say that I miss her with every fiber of my being would not convey the depth of the loss I feel at no longer having her in my life.

Mama loved Christmas, and she always tried to make it a happy time for everyone. Remembering those times, and the love and devotion of my Mama, I have decided to repost:

"A Christmas Memory"

By the mid 1800s the American Christmas tradition included much of the same customs and festivities as it does today, including tree decorating, gift-giving, Santa Claus, greeting cards, stockings by the fire, church activities and family-oriented days of feasting and fun.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, who became one of my favorite authors when I was very young, wrote about the preparations of a Christmas on the prairie. She said: "Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses." She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies, and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon.

That very Christmas, Laura Ingalls was delighted to find a shiny new tin cup, a peppermint candy, a heart shaped cake, and a brand new penny in her stocking.

With all the movies on television now, many with the theme of Christmases gone by, I cannot but remember, with great nostalgia, the first Christmas on Sand Mountain after Mama married my stepfather. If you have read my earlier posts, you will remember that I was nine years old, and we were sharecroppers, so there wasn't a lot of money to spend on presents, but Mama tried to make it as happy as possible, by sending Daddy out to woods to chop down a nice tree for us to decorate. For decorations, we strung popcorn on thread to make garlands, and cut strips of paper to make chains to wrap around the branches, which were garnished, beautifully, with little ornaments which Daddy cut out of tin cans. Since part of our duty as sharecroppers was to pick cotton, there was plenty of that saved in old Mason jars, and it worked just fine as big globs of snow on the branches! Of course, there were no packages under the tree, but we didn't worry about that--we expected Santa to take care of that!

I remember that Mama made a cake, Daddy parched some peanuts (which we also grew) and Mama made taffy, which took few ingredients, and the best part about that was pulling the taffy! It was great fun! So much fun that we hardly noticed the cold which swept in through the large cracks in the walls, and floor--besides, we had a cozy fire in the old fireplace, and you could get warm there--one side at a time! The wind whistled around the house, and through the cracks, but there was a warmth there, that did not come from the fireplace, nor the old stove in the kitchen. It was warmth which only comes from loving, and being loved, which cannot be understood unless one has experienced it.

Daddy played his fiddle, Mama and we sang, and I danced the buck-dance that Daddy had taught me to do. That night we went to bed, we girls snuggled in one bed, the boys in another, and Daddy and Mama in their bed, in the next room, where they kept hollering, "Y'all better get to sleep, or Santa won't come!" I don't know what the dreams were of the others in the house, but I'm sure that mine must have been delightful!

The next morning, we awoke to the sounds of Mama in the kitchen, and Daddy laughing, telling us we had better jump up and see what got left there last night! Of course, we all scrambled, and there, just like the best dream in the whole world were our treasures! One of my stepsisters was the very same age as I, so we got exactly the same thing, except for the colors of the dolls' dresses, and their eyes--mine had a pink dress and brown eyes, and hers had a blue dress and blue eyes! We, also, got a "diamond" ring, which cost all of thirty-five cents, as I found out a few years later, an orange, and a box of chocolate-covered cherries! I think that Christmas was probably the best Christmas ever!

Although I have many real diamond rings now, I don't think that any could compare with the one I received that Christmas. Even as I write this, I have a lump in my throat, because I know, now, what a sacrifice that was for Mama and Daddy. To some those few little presents are of little significance, but I'm sure that they did without something to be able to give us that much. To this day, I still give to those whom I love, a box of chocolate-covered cherries for Christmas.

My precious Mama passed away six years ago, and this past week would have been her birthday. She was a treasure and a blessing to all who knew her. Her name was Sarah, which in Hebrew means "princess" and she was, in every sense of the word.

Mama, the very memory of you is a blessing to me.


Joe Rose said...

Such a tribute to your Mom and Stepdad. Brought back a flood of memories.

Jan said...

Joe Rose..thank you!

I'm very glad you stopped by, and I hope that you will come again!

Ted said...

SCOTUS has now prevented itself from acknowledging the question whether Obama is or is not a “natural born citizen” (as distinguished from “citizen”) three times and counting: First before the Nov 4 general election and twice before the Dec 15 vote of the College of Electors. Other cases on the same question are at, or are heading to, SCOTUS. Whether SCOTUS ultimately decides if Obama is or is not a “natural born citizen” only after the Electors vote, only after Congress acts on the Electors’ vote, prior to Obama’s inauguration, or only after Obama’s inauguration, SCOTUS will have to decide — or the people and/or the military will. The issue no longer is Obama. The issue is SCOTUS.

Desert Cat said...

Ma'am, there is a precious sweetness about your writing and your memories that only someone who grew up through your circumstances can convey.

Thanks for this tidbit.

Granny J said...

Thank you, Jan, for a lovely post that is a reminder of what Christmas really means. Too much has been forgotten in our world of Xmas shopping on the one hand and the banning of many things Christmas from our public schools and public places.

Donald Douglas said...

An all-American Christmas.

"Y'all better come see what got left."

I love that story, thanks.

sheoflittlebrain said...

This is so beautiful, Jan. Of course I'm crying..your dear Mother makes me think so much of my dear Grandmother..

Jan said...

DC..thank you so much for your kind words.

It pleases me very much that you enjoyed reading the story.

Jan said...

Granny J..yes, I agree that too much about the real meaning of Christmas has been lost.

I am thankful for my memories of a very special one, and I am so glad to be able to share it with you, and to know that you enjoyed it.

Jan said...

Donald..thank you!

Jan said...

She..thank you!

I am so glad that you enjoyed my story, and I know that you can appreciate my love for my precious Mama.

GUYK said...

Very nice Jan..and brought back a lot of memories of Christmas past with my family

rockync said...

I wish you could have had her here with you a little longer - I know you miss her so. But I'm glad you have such wonderful memories of your Mama and she and I have birthdays just one day apart! (Mine is today).
My children are all grown but I have my grandchildren now and watching their excitement and wonder at all the trappings that are Christmas makes this season special and I cherish every minute!
I know even while you are missing your Mama, you will be cherishing your family and your life and I bet that would make her happy and proud.

Jan said...

rockync..Happy Birthday!

It seems that an awful lot of great people have birthdays in December!

Christmas is such a special time, and my wish is that everyone could truly know the Peace that it represents, don't you?

I'm glad that you can share this special time with your grandchildren--giving them some special memories to hold on to.

Jan said...


I know your family knew a little about sacrifice, too, and I'm sure that you have some very good memories from back then, too. :)

Anonymous said...

But life is still good , right!