Everybody Has a Story: Enchantment of Christmas morning shines down the decades

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My little sister Sammy and I scrambled down the stairs from our unheated bedroom to check on Santa. We first looked into our brown cotton stockings that we had flung over a chair the night before. We didn’t hang stockings on the mantle even though we did have a mantle over our gas fireplace. The stockings were always stuffed with a banana, an orange, Brazil nuts, chocolate drops and orange slice candy. There were never any toys in the stockings.

The toys were under the tree. The gifts from Santa were not wrapped. The Christmas when I was 6, there was a beautiful red tricycle under the tree for me and a Betsy-Wetsy doll for my little sister. Among the other things I remember discovering under the tree over the years were paper-doll books, scrapbooks and coloring books, water colors and crayons, Chinese checkers, Monopoly, a little red rocking chair, a deck of Authors cards, bunny house slippers, roller skates and a little kitchen cabinet that my mother had made. One Christmas, Mom had made matching blue house-coats for my sister and me, and Grandma had crocheted fluffy, warm hats.

Mom always gave us books. Under the tree for Christmas 1936 was a copy of “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.” Then, in January 1937, we had to evacuate our house to escape a flood on the Ohio River. We spent a month in the barracks at Fort Knox while the flood raged throughout the Ohio Valley, eventually covering our first floor with four feet of muddy water.

When we got back home, I salvaged water-soaked King Arthur. With every move, declutter and downsize through the years, I have managed to hold on to King Arthur.

We didn’t go to see Santa or write letters to him. I guess it was assumed that Santa would know what we wanted for Christmas. When I was about 5, I had my heart set on a black baby doll. Santa brought it and no one commented on this being a weird choice for a Scotch-Irish child in Kentucky.

Wrapped gifts were carefully unwrapped without tearing the paper. The paper was ironed, folded and put away for future wrapping. Ribbon was rolled around an empty spool.

After we had checked out all our gifts, we walked down to Aunt Mary’s to see what the cousins got for Christmas.

Our house smelled wonderful as the turkey roasted. All morning, Grandpa would be snitching raw oysters from the stash that Grandma planned to put in the dressing. He also sneaked them to me, which made raw oysters one of the things I love best in the world. Stolen fruits, you know.

Christmas was a magical time. I wish I could feel that again.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Email is the best way to send materials so we don’t have to retype your words or borrow original photos. Send to neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA 98666. Call Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.