Thank you so much to all that prayed for my parents during their recent trip to Mexico. They arrived safely home and seem to be doing much better. I guess it was good that I complained about their lack of posting here because they sent me this story of Dad’s childhood Christmas memories. If you are a Spanish speaker make sure to check out my parent’s blog! Enjoy:
In my parents’ home when I was growing up we always looked forward to Christmas with great excitement. It was a time of fun and celebration with our family. My dad would tell people he had six sons and each one had six sisters. You could see some people trying to figure out just how many children he had. If Dad saw a person didn’t understand his joke, he would add, “Each of my sons has the same six sisters.” I was the 9th child, and when I was small some of my older brothers and sisters were married and had children near my age.
My parents had a large house, and we would ordinarily have other relatives besides the immediate family. We usually spent three days cooking and getting ready for Christmas Day. Some of the relatives would come on Christmas Eve, but most came early Christmas morning. So Christmas for us meant getting together and visiting, listening to stories of the history of the family and being brought up to date on everything that was happening with the extended family.
We never had a Christmas tree. We would all wake up excited on Christmas morning to find out what Santa Clause left in one corner of the living room. There was usually a small toy costing about 50 cents for each child. There were no presents for my parents or other adults. And there was always a sack of candy. We never had candy during the year. And one other thing: there was always a banana. It was the only time of year we had bananas, and we thought they were the most wonderful treat imaginable.
We would wake up long before our parents and look at, but not touch, the pile of toys in the corner. The toys were not wrapped. Each of us would try to guess which toy was for him as there were no name tags. I would pick my favorite and hold my breath to see if that would be mine. Finally, Dad would wake up and come in and distribute the toys—this one is for you, and this one is for you.
One year I remember there were mostly little cars, but there was one very exciting-looking toy that you put a marble in the top, watched it go round and round, and come out the bottom. Dad gave out the toys a car, a car, a car, to everyone except me. Imagine my excitement! Then he said, “Hal, this one is for you to share with your brothers.” I didn’t say a thing, but I thought, “My little brother sure wouldn’t share if that were his.” I was really disappointed since I just got a toy to share with everybody else. When I told this story to my wife the other day (for the first time in our 52 years together), she said, “It was probably a compliment because they knew you were the kindest, the only one who would actually share.”
Dad always bought a big turkey some time before Christmas to be fattened for the feast. But one year he said he couldn’t find a turkey. I don’t know if that could have been true, but that is what he told us. We kept hoping day after day he would bring a turkey, but Christmas morning came, and no turkey. Now, living on a ranch, we had plenty of food—beef, pork, chicken. But to us boys, the thing that made Christmas dinner was THE BIRD.
The day before Christmas we little boys were playing and saw a flock of geese circling. With great excitement, we ran to tell Dad. He got his 12-guage shot gun (single shot), and we followed him to our pond, which was quite a ways from the house, hoping they would land there and worried the whole time we might be too late. (We found out later the neighbors were hoping they would land on their pond!) Just as we got near enough, the first big goose rose into the air, followed by the next and the next as Dad took aim. The very last one flew up after the others, and Dad shot it! Christmas dinner was saved!
I don’t remember anyone ever talking about the Christ of Christmas. Special food, fun with the family, and Santa Claus! As exciting as Christmas was, it makes me sad now to think that’s all Christmas meant to us.