Holiday Memories By Dawn It is Christmas Eve and two little girls are lying in bed trying to get to sleep.  The dog has already wormed his way down between the sheets and the bottom of the bed.  Little cold feet enjoy the warmth as they push and pull the small dog, warming their toes and heels on his little body, sometimes earning a slight nip when pushing too hard.  The upstairs bedroom is cold from the window being slightly raised. “Fresh air is healthy,” says their mom. The two little girls are Jean and Alma Dawn Anderson.  I am (Alma) Dawn, and these are my Holiday memories from approximately 1936 to 1939. Thanksgiving Our holidays began as we looked forward to the delights of Thanksgiving dinner.  When Thanksgiving dinner was made at home, our favorite treat was Mother’s suet pudding with lemon sauce, thickened (mmmmm) with heavy cream. What a delicious memory! Her pumpkin pies, with lots of whipped cream on top, were gobbled up quickly.  When we were invited to our Aunt Alvilda’s home for Thanksgiving, we looked forward to her creamed vegetables. No one could cream vegetables like she could! Whenever I think back, my memories are a mishmash of family, homes and friends during the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Aunt Alvilda and Uncle Oscar was a more formal occasion than it would have been if held at our home.  Aunt Alvilda’s sisters and their families were always part of the dinner party.  I felt very small and was always afraid I would spill something, which I’m sure I did, at least on myself.  Aunt Alvilda’s home was filled with more furniture and seemed richer than ours.   Pictures she had painted hung on her walls.  Both Jean and I remember a beautiful needlepoint cushion gracing a chair.  We also remember statuettes sitting around and lace runners covering the piano and tables. There was, in an upstairs room, a wonderful Victrola.  Jean and I, filled to the brim with Aunt Alvilda’s good cooking, were ready to escape from the table and older relatives.  Asking permission, we were then allowed to go upstairs.  Jean had no fear. Up the stairs she’d bound, with me tagging cautiously behind.  The Victrola was a very special instrument at that time.  We, of course, did not own one.  Jean never allowed me to put on those magical records.  She was four years older and definitely my big sister!  She carefully placed the needle just so and we danced around on the plain, wooden floor, listening to the songs of “Red River Valley,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “Alice Blue Gown”.  Leaving the warmth of our aunt’s home and going out into the cold night to walk the five long blocks to our home was only bearable because Thanksgiving was over and Christmas was coming! One night stands out in my memory.  I was with my dad. It was right after Thanksgiving, and we were standing on the main street that led into our little town, waiting to see Santa Claus.  This was very exciting for me.  In those days there was no TV, no Santas in the stores (we only had one furniture store in town), so to be told I could actually see Santa in our little town seemed almost impossible to me.  I must have been wearing long brown stockings, a dress and coat. Girls didn’t wear pants in those days.  I doubt I had mittens on because that was what we usually got for Christmas. Last year’s mittens would have been long lost or worn out.  I was very cold.  I remember that!  We seemed to wait for a long time.  I’m sure my dad was visiting with the people around us. He was friendly and knew everyone.  I remember trying to see past the tall people in front of me when suddenly Santa was there, standing in a truck and waving at everyone.  He looked huge in his red suit.  I was awestruck!  I can’t remember if he threw candy. I only remember me wondering where his reindeer were.  I looked up to the sky and could not see them.  I asked Daddy where they were.  I don’t remember the answer. Then Santa was gone. School became part of Christmas.  Some of our school day was spent lovingly cutting out strips of green and red from construction paper, carefully pasting them together and making a wonderful chain to put on our Christmas tree at home.  Beautiful, white snowflakes magically appeared as instruction from the teacher was completed.  The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed forever to little ones like us.  We did not have the responsibility of buying gifts and preparing for Christmas, so our evenings were used up in poring through the Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward  catalogs.  That was where our dreams were.  We made list after list of the beautiful things we never really expected to get.  These same catalogs, with their lovely ladies, modeling coats, dresses, shoes and gowns were later cut out to become our paper dolls. (Sometimes, part of the catalog would be put to more practical use in our outhouse!) Before bed, we would sit around the Heat-arolla in our living room; Mother would read to us The Happy Prince, The Bird’s Christmas Carole, The Little Match Girl and The Christmas Carole.  She touched our tender hearts, and sometimes our eyes glistened with tears.   She helped us understand how blessed we were, and our sympathies went out to those who had less.  I believe these books our mother read to us seared forever in our minds and hearts that we should be kind to others less fortunate, teaching us the true meaning of Christmas. Some evenings, one of us would pop popcorn, shaking the basket on top of the stove to keep the kernels from burning. Then we would sit at the old card table and play games: Monopoly, Old Maid, Chinese Checker’s, Pollyanna or Hearts.  We always had a dog, usually a stray, and sometimes Mother would let a new little barn cat into the house on a cold winter evening. Our entertainment would then be to watch the cat harass our lazy dog. If nothing else, we would get out our Jacks or Pick-Up-Sticks to play or argue over. Jean and I always had books to read.  I almost wore out the big fairy tale book that we still have.  Paper dolls or coloring books were other favorite pastimes.  We were never bored on those long, winter evenings! The pinion pine Christmas tree was pulled into the kitchen, spilling pine needles as it was dragged on through to the living room. This meant Christmas was very close.  As the air was heated by the warm stove, the pine fragrance filled every room and nose. The smell conjured up the baby Jesus, toys, a cozy room, loving parents and memories of all past Christmases.  The Christmas tree brought Christmas into our home. We decorated the tree with big colored lights.  The red and green chains made at school were added to the ones that had been made last year and wound around the tree.  The popcorn strands weren’t very long (too many broken kernels, too little patience).  Walking past the white snowflakes hanging from their strings, we would blow on them, making them twirl and twirl.  Because the icicles were saved from year to year, they had become more like silver blobs.  New icicles taken from a box were quickly, if not perfectly, hung.  The old icicles filled in when we ran out of the new ones, covering the tree and reflecting the colored lights, looking magnificent to all the eyes of those who beheld. Mother and Dad never said prayers with us that I remember.  They would always kiss us goodnight and send us up to bed to say our prayers by ourselves.  We would obediently do so.  I’m sure in our prayers we said we were thankful for the baby Jesus, and at that time of the year we would also pray for snow. Christmas Eve At last, Jean and I each found one of our long, brown stockings, without a hole in it (the longer the better to hold the orange, banana, candy and nuts). The stockings were somehow hung over the door. We didn’t have a fireplace. Pillows were warmed on the top of the Heat-arolla and then held tightly to the sides of our heads as we ran up the stairs and jumped into our cold bed. We shivered and jostled for a warm spot, feeling for the soft fur of the dog at our feet. It was finally Christmas Eve! Sleep finally comes. One sister pushes the other, “Are you awake?” A sleepy voice answers her, “I’m awake.” Yelling downstairs, “Daddy, is it time to get up yet?”  (Clocks are not placed in the bedrooms of children.) A very tired voice:  “Not yet, go to sleep.  It’s only twelve o-clock!” “Tell us when you get up to build the fire!” “Go to sleep!” “Daddy, is it time to get up yet?” “No, it’s only two o-clock!” “Daddy, is it time to get up yet?” “No, it’s only four o-clock!” Whining, “Can’t we please get up?” “Oh all right, but you have to wait until I build a fire and it gets warm.” I can still hear the sounds of Daddy getting out of bed, rustling the paper to put in the Heat-arolla, waiting to hear the roar of the fire as it catches onto the paper and wood. We would then know it would not be long before the living room would have the chill taken away, and it would be okay to jump out of bed and race downstairs to the tree! Christmas Day I don’t believe we were ever disappointed with the gifts we received.  We each received one special gift.  All others would be clothing or a game and a book.  We took good care to make sure no one else got into our stocking goodies.  Our stockings were a very important part of our Christmas. One year the only thing I wanted was a doll that I could change and feed. I think it was called a Didee Doll.  Both Jean and I got one. Hers was bigger, but I didn’t mind. We received watches another year.  Jean’s was nicer, but I didn’t mind.  I was four years younger and it didn’t seem wrong to me that she got the biggest and the best. One year, we got the most beautiful coloring books ever!  They had pictures of beautiful women in a variety of period clothing.  I loved my book, and I colored and colored until it was finished.  I started to look for Jean’s book.  I hoped maybe she would let me color a page or two.  Jean was wise and had put hers in her cupboard that had a lock on it.  Foiled!  I will always remember that beautiful book. Another Christmas when I was about ten years of age, I was disappointed because I had opened all my gifts and could see that none of them was the basketball I had hinted that I wanted.  I was asked if I was happy with my gifts.  I swallowed hard, near tears, and said I was. My mother then asked if I had looked behind the Christmas tree.  I said that I thought I had looked.  “Look again,” she said. My heart started beating hard as I walked back into the living room and looked behind the tree. There was something round wrapped in paper.  Oh, the joy of getting something you really had wanted but were afraid you would not get!  I was in a dream!  I wanted to cry with happiness!  Daddy put up a standard for me on the washhouse over the cellar door.  The brown, hard ground was my court where I played with that precious basketball. After we had opened our gifts we would have our breakfast. Mother always made that Christmas breakfast seem special. On each plate was an orange that looked like a flower. She would peel back the rinds making the petals.  I could never quite do it like she did. We had already checked out our stockings with the orange, banana, nuts and candy.  The nuts were almost as important as the candy.  We always had a nutcracker and bowls close by to put the shells in.  Of course, nutshells didn’t always make it into the bowls, and once in a while we would step on a wayward shell.  “OUCH!” We each had a special hard candy that it seemed every child received at Christmas time. It would be in the shape of an animal and could be different colors: orange, red, green and blue.  We could lick and suck on those animal candies for days. The taste was unique and wonderful!  That candy was so much a part of our Christmas. After breakfast we looked around the neighborhood, and the only other lights we saw were across the street at the Birds’ house. We each gathered our main toy and ran across the street to see what they had received.  They came back with us to see ours.  We always received games at Christmas and many evenings were spent playing them with the Bird children. Later on Christmas morning, we would walk to our other friends’ houses.  I can only remember two friends that lived close by at the time.  As we visited their homes, we were utterly amazed that they had just gotten up and eaten breakfast before they looked at their gifts, or they showed disinterest at gifts we would have loved to have.  These girls didn’t have siblings to share their Christmas with. Kathryn lived around the corner from us. When I walked into her house, the first thing I saw was a beautiful, red velvet robe, hanging on the back of a door.  I gasped!  It had a circular skirt and a tie belt to cinch in the waist.  She had not even taken it off the hanger.  I had a fleeting thought of asking her if I could have her robe. (During my later teen years, I bought a robe like Kathryn’s, only mine was light pink.  I really loved it!) Jean and I loved Christmas!  We loved everything about it.  We loved the story of the Christ child and other tender stories. We loved the excitement we felt when thinking of Christmas.  We loved our home that provided so many wonderful Christmas moments and our parents who helped us appreciate our blessings.  We really did feel sorry for those who had too much. We had each other, and there was no better Christmas gift in the entire world than being with our family!