In her old age, Mama surprised us all with a memoir she’d typed on a second hand manual typewriter picked up at a yard sale. I hand-bound a few copies for the family and Mrs. McGehee printed an excerpt in the Fluvanna County Historical Society Bulletin. On this Christmas Eve, thought I’d share a brief chapter:
These were the Depression years and times were hard for everyone, but especially difficult for my parents as my father being a sharecropper worked the farm and received only two-thirds of the crops he raised, but we were furnished with the house in which we lived. No potpourri was needed in this farm house. An apple orchard grew on the farm and the aroma of ripening Winesaps scented the entire house from several barrels of apples kept in the attic bedroom for our consumption during the winter months. Peaches, berries, grapes and cherries grown on the farm along with the apples provided the fruit for the family needs.
Today being blessed with four grown children and six grandchildren (now eight) and enjoying being in their homes especially at Christmas and watching them enjoy the many toys they find beneath the tree, I am happy for them, and my mind goes back to other years long ago and Christmases in my home when I was a child. Stockings were not hung at our house. Instead we selected shoe boxes during the year that were placed in special corners awaiting Santa’s arrival. This remained the custom in my home while celebrating Christmas in later years with my own children and what a happy and special time this was for me. We never decorated a tree at the old farm, but it was Christmas nevertheless, and we knew we were celebrating Christ’s birthday. I still recall the feeling of anticipation on Christmas Eve and the excitement of Christmas morning as we rushed down the narrow stairs to find what was in our boxes.
There was always one special toy in each, a handful of hard candy, a few nuts and an orange. This was the only time of year when we saw an orange, as they were not in the store except at Christmas. The toy we received was the only one we had from one Christmas to the next. I never remember having a birthday cake or getting a gift on that day until after I left home. But at Christmas, my mother always baked chocolate, coconut and caramel cakes for us to enjoy during the holidays.
One Christmas stands out in my memory. I found a small brown teddy bear in my box. For some reason, I didn’t like the fuzzy toy with the bead eyes. I tossed it under a chair and never touched it again. Now I know how badly my parents must have felt when I rejected the toy they had chosen and sacrificed getting for me. Today I have a similar one sitting in a rocker in my living room that I cherish.