Do you remember the incredible Christmas when you were young and Santa brought you exactly what you wanted? Was it a Lionel Train set or the doll you saw in the window at Younkers all dressed up in a red velvet holiday gown?
I grew up in a small farming community that was nothing like Menomonie, WI where I live now. In the eyes of a child, it was every bit as glamorous. Don’t get me wrong. We decorated our little town just like the big cities. There were wreaths and lights all the way down our two-block-long main street.
Every weekend during December Santa came to town. We couldn’t wait to go downtown to get a candy cane and tell the jolly fat man what we wanted to find under the tree. The town council erected a stage in front of the drug store and musicians entertained on the Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The merchants all banded together and gave out free turkeys at a drawing held every Saturday afternoon when the music finished. It was home and it was what we looked forward to year after year during the holidays.
Today I went to the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie for the Annual Fine Arts & Crafts Fair. I watched as a young girl (about 5) reached out to touch the angels, ribbons & bows, and garlands that adorn our beautiful theater here. Her enchantment reminded me of how I reacted to all the joys of Christmas as a child.
I started thinking about Christmas long ago as I drove home through the beautiful snowy landscape of Dunn County. This farm landscape is not all that different from the Iowa landscape of my childhood. Perhaps that’s why I love it here so much. Everything good in my childhood revolved around family farms.
I remembered one specific Christmas as I drove. It was the year I learned family traditions and love are the most important part of the Christmas celebration.
I was seven the year and I received the Queen Elizabeth coronation doll I’d begged for, a set of pajamas, a couple of books, a new winter coat, and two new outfits for school. It was an extraordinary Christmas.
We went to church the following Sunday. Classes for the children followed the services. The Sunday school teacher asked each of us to share what we received for Christmas as we sat around the small little table in the basement of the church. Each child stood up and shared the list of what they received.
The last child to stand was a boy a year older than me. He stood straight and tall as he shared that he’d received a shiny red apple, an orange, a pair of socks, and a shiny new silver dollar in his stocking. He reached in his pocket, pulled out the silver dollar, and proudly held it up for all of us to see. His smile was bigger than any of the rest of us as he displayed the lucky silver dollar he planned to carry in his pocket until he decided what he’d spend it on.
I forced myself to smile at him but inside I wanted to cry. I wanted to run home and get him a present so he’d have something better than a stupid old apple and orange to brag about.
Mom explained it all to me when we got home from church. She told me this farm family had a really hard year. They’d experienced every type of bad luck a farmer can have. Their yield wasn’t nearly enough to cover the loan payments due at the bank. My father had agreed to carry a large portion of the farmer’s debt to our store over into the next year so the farmer would have more money to pay the bank. Mom said they were all looking forward to next year’s opportunity for a good harvest. Her final words have stayed with me to this day:
Christmas isn’t about presents. It’s about how we all love each other and work together to make sure everyone is safe and happy. Even the smallest token of love will make a child’s heart soar. Christmas is an opportunity for those who prosper during the year to share with their friends who may not have been as successful. Christmas doesn’t live under the tree. It lives in our hearts and souls. It is the promise of life and joy throughout the coming year. Your friend understands the true meaning of Christmas and he knows without any doubt how much his parents love him and struggle to protect him. That is the best gift any child can receive.
Author: Peggy McAloon
Be Safe…Be Loved…Pass It On!