It was 1949. Winter had arrived early that year. Already well over a foot of snow covered the ground and it was only December.
Inside the small house, the potbellied wood stove in the kitchen and oil heater in the dining room struggled to keep everyone warm. At night, my brother and I almost could not be seen because of the pile of blankets on our bed.
My parents were worried about getting us gifts for Christmas. A problem with the car had resulted in Dad having to take it to a repair shop. In order to pay for the work, part of the money that was being saved for Christmas had to be used.
Now Christmas was right around the corner. Mom and Dad wanted to get some toys and new clothes for me and my brother and some cigars and a new shirt for my grandfather — my mother’s father — who lived with us. But it didn’t seem like that would be possible.
Over the next week or so, Mom was busy doing a lot of baking and making candy. We always looked forward to having such treats as rich chocolate fudge and lighter than air divinity on Christmas Day. Added to that were the cookies, the traditional nut roll made from a sweet dough and walnuts, cinnamon rolls, and pies.
Mom and Dad had purchased a small tree for us to decorate. It stood in the corner of the dining room and my brother and I would sit for long periods of time watching the bubble lights. We were so excited! Christmas was only a couple of days away!
The day before Christmas, Grandpa asked Dad to take him uptown and drop him off at one of the stores. He told Dad he would be ready to go back home in a couple of hours.
Christmas morning arrived. My brother and I were up before daylight, of course. We quietly went out to the dining room and saw several brightly wrapped packages. There was one for each of us that had a label on it saying it was from Santa. Just then our parents and grandfather came into the living room and said we could open our presents. However, we decided to look in our stockings first. There we discovered an orange, a pack of gum, some fudge and divinity, some hard Christmas candy, and cookies. Naturally Mom denied putting the candy and cookies in the stockings.
Opening our presents, I found a doll — a Toni doll — in a frilly dress. According to the little paper accompanying the doll, there was enough hair on its head to make seven pairs of women’s nylon stockings. A second package held finger paints and paper.
My brother yelled with pleasure when he unwrapped a long red ladder fire truck. His other present of a new pair of jeans took second place.
Grandpa smiled when he saw he’d gotten cigars and a new shirt.
I don’t remember what my parents gave each other but I’m sure whatever it was they were happy with their gifts.
The rest of the day my brother and I played with our new toys.
As we looked around at our parents and grandpa, we saw their smiles. My brother and I thought we had received wonderful gifts. I painted a picture for my Mom and Dad and one for my Grandpa. All through the day, my brother and I nibbled on the goodies we’d found in our stockings.
Years later Mom told me that Grandpa had apparently heard her and Dad talking about no money for gifts one night after they thought he was asleep. She said he had bought the toys for us because he didn’t want us to wake up on Christmas morning and not find anything under the tree that was fun.
It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized what my parents and grandfather had given up so my brother and I would have presents under the Christmas tree.
What I remember the most about that Christmas long ago, is how happy we all were.