My sister Sally was not so eager to spend time with Ma and Pa while she was small as Pat and I were. As she got a bit older she seemed to be partial to Pa and spent as much time with him as possible. I remember that they shared birthdays and when asked how old she was, she would say, “I’m same as Pa.” Our parents moved from the farm when I was seven and Sally was four so she missed a lot of one on one time with Ma. We did, however, always spend Christmas with Ma and Pa as I have often mentioned in this column. In fact, we were convinced that Santa would not come to see us if we weren’t at the house with the big chimney.
Sally and I slept in the folding bed called a Murphy bed in Ma and Pa’s big bedroom. It had a mattress filled with straw and folded up against the wall during the day. That room would be really cold after we went to bed and the fire died down. I remember waking up to see Pa putting another log on the fire, which was such a reassuring feeling. On Christmas Eve Sally would try to stay awake to hear the reindeer and the sleigh on the roof. Now, I had come to a conclusion about the story of Santa and the reindeer but I kept Sally believing by telling her periodically that I could hear the little feet of the reindeer on the old tin roof. I probably halfway believed it myself. I can still feel the wonder and thrill of waking in the wee hours in the morning to see our stockings hanging and presents around the fireplace.
We didn’t have many, many gifts back then and other children that we knew didn’t have a lot of toys either. Our parents were not really poor but I imagine they thought it was sufficient to have one really big gift and several little ones, and maybe that was best. Ma always gave us a small gift and usually it was a box of little girl handkerchiefs. I still have two of those little “hankies”.
The worst Christmas of my life, and Sally’s too, was when the mail carrier drove right by our mailbox and gave a parcel from Sears to me at our little country school. It was partially unwrapped so I could plainly see the little piggy bank and the doll. I was only six so Christmas was ruined for me and when I took the half wrapped package home, it was ruined for my baby sister Sally. I often have thought what a cruel evil thing that was for the mailman to do, knowing that he was ruining Christmas for me. Thinking back on the whole scenario, I wonder that my father, who had a quick temper, didn’t work that mailman over. However, they had a poor relationship from then on. How sad that the mailman is still remembered by my sister and me as an evil man.
We all three sisters remember Pa and Ma as totally accepting of us at a time when short shorts were in style for the first time. We, of course, wore them as did all our peers and out grandparents saw nothing wrong with that. Ma’s only concern was when we wore bathing suits to get a suntan. She was of the era when it was not fashionable to be tan so she was concerned about our skin. Some man of Pa’s acquaintance made some remark to Pa about his granddaughters wearing shorts and Pa’s remark to him was, “If your daughter wore shorts instead of skirts while picking strawberries, she would be better off.”
One thing we all remember is the birthday card, which Ma always sent to us. It would have a quarter taped to it and she usually included one of her original poems that were appropriate at the time.
Not once, never, did Ma or Pa scold us for anything. I am sure that the reason was that we lived up to their expectations of us.
Once I came home from visiting my cousins who didn’t live in our area and cried to Ma because I didn’t have a grandma like they had. She laughed, and I remember it well, and told me that Ma was the same as Grandma and that I could call her Grandma if I wished. I thought on that for a while and told her that I would rather have a Ma.
Thanks so much for the kind words about my columns about our dear grandparents. Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.