THIS CHRISTMAS IS TAKING PLACE JUST A MONTH BEFORE MY 100TH BIRTHDAY. I WANT TO BE SURE TO WRITE THIS MEMORY DOWN AND LEAVE IT FOR MY FAMILY TO ENJOY. I MAY HAVE SEVERAL MORE OF THESE CELEBRATIONS, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LORD WILL COME FOR ME! I STAY PREPARED FOR THAT JOURNEY AND I WANT TO WRITE THINGS ABOUT MY LIFE THAT MY FAMILY WILL BE GLAD TO READ!
I am late getting my Christmas greeting blog written. I have been busy signing and sending books. The memory has returned of all the wonderful Christmas days that we had when I was little and I have described that in minute detail in several of the writings, but I can’t take the time to go through and see how recently that writing was and also see if I told all of it in one spot. There have been writings here and there and for this and that, so I will celebrate this wonderful Christmas when I will soon be a hundred years old, and it will be fun for me, at least, to go back and think about the way we went about this, all during the fall months. Just as soon as the fall began to leave the ground stiff with the icicles, we knew that we had the two big holidays coming up and everything that was done would be with a thought of what was ahead.
I was the 9th child, there were all of these older brothers and sisters who shared in all of the preparations and Mother supervised. My sister, Josephine, was the oldest and she was away from home teaching school, so as we anticipated her arrival everything was always in a flurry—The county that I lived in was Clay County and it has some steep hills surrounding the county seat of Clay, WV. We lived at the top of one of them. There was a car road that led to the farm. There was two miles of the county road, and two miles of the private road that led out to the lower gate. However, there was a footpath up the hill that we used in all of our daily trips to town. My father worked in the Elk Valley Bank and then he was sheriff and had an office in the courthouse.
The older children went to high school in the town of Clay, and the younger children attended school in Dundon, WV. which was a company town, located directly across the Elk River from the town of Clay.
All through the autumn days, the boys would be sawing and cutting and splitting the firewood that we needed throughout the winter. They made huge stacks of the logs for the fireplace, and the sticks that were cut the correct sizes for our kitchen stove. The stacks were placed in the shed of the smokehouse. In early November, it was their practice to begin bringing down from the smokehouse to our back porch, stacks of those logs. When the fall weather turned into winter and we had snow sometimes up to a man’s knees, it was great to go out the back door and find the nice, dry fuel and bring it in to the house! The fireplaces were BIG, and when the fire was built, there was first placed the “Backlog” which was a piece of a log, cut the right size for the fire and then the others were a couple of smaller logs and the rest would be two or three split logs and when that was roaring, you could be quite comfortable in that room regardless of what was going on outside with the wind howling through those trees!
Now Jo would be coming home and everyone would be leaning on every word she had to say—therefore they made a little platform that stood in the corner of the dining room over to the right side of the fireplace and there they piled another supply of the firewood so that they did not have to go out of earshot of Jo’s voice!
When she came home for Thanksgiving, she and the teen aged sisters plotted the fun they would have during the Christmas holidays. We remember that our boys were great hunters in the fall and during those long hours in the woods, they usually found the perfect tree for our Christmas. They would mark it and make a note of where they were and exactly how to return to it. When it was time for the tree, the boys went out to the woods, found the tree, took the horse and farm sled to haul it in, from where they carried it to the fence, and from there to the house they hauled it.
We had tall ceilings in those old houses, and the rooms were large. We would bring the table forward toward the fireplace about the middle of the room, leaving plenty of room for the tree between the two big windows. We had a small wash tub that we saved from year to year that was filled with rocks and this held the tree. They set it down in the tub and filled it up with those rocks and they fastened the tree with wire to the window sills and incidentally, the screws that held the wire were left in place from year to year! They used a thin wire and the tree was as solid as if it were growing out of the ground! Now the sisters were ready for it and from top to bottom they worked on it with our tree trim until it was a thing of beauty! We had no electricity in rural America until about 1934 but the tinsel and the ornaments made it gorgeous. We loved the tree and when Jo came home, she would nearly always bring something she had found to add to the tree trim. Our parents were always working with the family to prepare for the holiday and the return of the daughter, Jo, to celebrate, and that was a happy time for us all.
We loved Christmas. Even though we had two orchards, our stocking would always have the big red Starke’s Delicious apple from the state of Washington, and a big peppermint stick, and California oranges. The boys would have their usual “cap buster” guns and then we would also get a pencil box, and I would get crayons and watercolor sets, or bead stringing sets or something like that. We loved the stockings and always looked at that before anything under the tree.
However, on the Christmas that I received my porcelain doll, it was lying in a doll bed that my brother, Charles had made from a big wooden box. I He had taken it apart and used that nice wood to shape a precious little doll bed and he had painted it white. My sister, Irene, made a lovely coverlet for it and Clementine did the pillow case with crocheted lace and embroidery! My doll in all her beautiful glory was asleep in that splendid bed. She was dressed in an exquisite dress and Clem and Mother made some extras and I named her Mary
Jane for my Grandmother Johnson. Besides the porcelain doll, I also found under that tree, a book of Red Riding Hood, a Bible story book, and two Bobbsey Twin books, as well as a set of twin dolls that were in the same blanket and one was a boy and one was a girl! I changed their clothes at least a dozen times that day! What a fun time that was!
Of course, after dinner we would go out and have a huge snowball fight. The boys, while dinner was being fixed, would be outside shoveling snow and making two sides for the “enemies” to hide behind. We would have two sides and we fought for at least two or three hours. I really do not remember just how long it was, but we fought until everyone grew totally worn out! Jo even persuaded Mother and Dad to join us one time! They did come out and Jo got Mother on her side and Charles got Dad on his I think, but the memory is blurred there.
We had a big time there while they were with us, because it was a rare thing that they joined us in our fights. When we went in, we would then be ready to fix the supper and have hot chocolate with whipped cream on top, and some of Mother’s pie, or in my case, especially, a big slice of Mother’s fruit cake. That was a favorite with me! Then Josephine and Dad would get into their checkers and the rest of us would get into dominoes or maybe Rook or Flinch which were card games that we liked. It should not surprise anyone reading this that we were made drowsy by the warm fire and the full tummies, and an early bedtime was what pleased us all! I wanted to be there for the whole scene, but I think I was the first one to nearly fall off my chair and so it was to gather up my dolls and leaving the books and other trinkets behind, I trotted off to bed, with Mother holding the blanket she had warmed by the fire. She kept it folded and when she turned the covers down, she placed it on that cold sheet, and covered me up in it like a sleeping bag! With that goose-feather- bed, I never even smelled cold, even though the outside was freezing and our big house had no central heat, and no stoves in those bedrooms! After having one house burn to the ground, my parents did not make any fireplaces upstairs!
Now sometimes the big day was on a Saturday, or maybe a Friday and that would mean the whole weekend with everyone there to have hours of play together, in snacking and fun—fun—fun! In that case, Jo and Dad kept right on with their game of checkers! My dad was the county champion and he had spent hours teaching Jo what he called “strategy.” So now that she was grown and out on her own, teaching school, he had one who could sometimes get him penned and win the game!! So that same game was left set up and when we had a long weekend Christmas, they were sitting there poring over their game while we played our games at the dining table and this would be something that I could join in for there was Charles, Clementine, Irene, James, Johnny and Maxine. They taught me how to play all those games when I was six and knew my numbers. I was helped to understand the rules and they did not hesitate to say, “Mac, you can play this game with us, or you can play with your dolls, or read your books. You can choose”.
Now we had a pitch game called “One hundred and one” which Mother taught me to play when teaching me arithmetic, so I really liked that one if someone would agree to play with me on that, or I would choose to play with my dolls or read. If it was dominoes, I might choose that, but otherwise I did not enjoy the card games with them that much!
Sometimes, my brother, Charles, would decide that he would pitch with me and that would be a barrel of fun, for Charles was a wit, and he made all sorts of funny remarks to me while we were playing or he would say, “If you want me to tell you a story, I will do that.” Naturally, I would choose that every time. He told funny stories that he made up as he went, such as Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, which he would tell just as he imagined it, like this.
Goldie Locks was named that because her hair was the color of gold. She was the only child and she was spoiled from being allowed to do as she pleased. She would go to the table to eat without washing her hands, and she never said, “Please,” or “thank you,” and when it was bedtime her parents would say, “Good night, Goldie Locks” and she would make a face at them and say nothing.
He would tell that story from beginning to end in that way, so that all that happened was because of her being such a naughty child! And from that day forward, when I told this story throughout a lifetime of storytelling—I always doctored it up to sound the way Charles told it to me in his own inimitable style.
I THINK AT THIS POINT, YOU SHOULD HAVE A GOOD IDEA OF WHY I LOVE TO REMIINISCE ABOUT MY EARLY CHILDHOOD CHRISTMAS TIMES AND EVEN THOUGH I AM NEARING THE 100TH BIRTHDAY, I ALWAYS LOVE TO THINK BACK ON IT AND REMEMBER EVERY DETAIL.