There wasn’t always money for presents

During this time of year, I find myself reminiscing about past Christmases. I enjoy the memories, even the painful ones.

I love Christmas trees, and I can still picture several of them from my childhood. Dad was responsible for getting the tree. To him, a tree was just a tree; he didn’t pay attention to the size or shape. I remember one year he went down to our swamp. He brought back an awful tree; actually, it resembled a Charlie Brown tree. My mother was not at all satisfied with it, and after that they went to a tree lot and bought one.

Mother took such pride in our tree. She spent hours and hours decorating it. The tinsel (we called them icicles) had to hang down perfectly straight. We didn’t have cookie cutters, but Dad made some wonderful cutouts. He asked what animals we wanted and he cut out wonderful cows, deer, horses, camels, elephants, etc. Mother tied the cookies onto the tree with brightly colored ribbon.

Popcorn balls wrapped in bright colored paper, candy cherries on wires, and red and white candy canes also adorned our trees. Mother lovingly placed beautiful glass ornaments and colorful bubble lights on the branches. I have them now and they are such a treasure. My favorite ornaments are those that have tinsel inside. There is also one with Santa’s workshop inside.

We lived modestly. Dad was old school. He felt it was his responsibility to take care of his family. He didn’t want Mother to work outside the home. Dad worked at Four-Wheel Drive (Seagrave). Every year, he received a Christmas bonus and a portion of it was used for Christmas presents. One year, as Christmas was nearing, the check still hadn’t arrived. I was old enough to hear the discussions between my folks. Dad kept assuring my mother the check would arrive.

Well, the check didn’t. Dad told Mother he would go and get some money from their savings in the company’s credit union, money he had saved for taxes. Unfortunately, he waited too long. The credit union was closed Christmas week. Mother was so upset. It was the first time I saw her cry.

Mother didn’t drive during those years. We lived about a half-mile from downtown Marion. On Christmas Eve, Mom bundled up my little brother who was about 3. She told me to put on warm clothes. We walked down to the dime store. She asked me to take my brother, Joel, to another area of the store so she could buy him a few toys. I know she used her grocery money.

She bought me gifts at the dime store, too. She tried to be discreet, but the store was small and I saw the purse she tried to hide. I was old enough to know the purse, comb and mirror were bought with sacrifice and love. I know how stressful it was trying to put gifts under the tree that year. I’m sure that holds true for many families now, too.

I loved our Christmas program at church. Mother always made sure I had something pretty to wear. Back then, home perms were popular. Unfortunately, my hair always seemed to frizz up, but Mom did her best. (I giggle at some of the old photos.) After the program, all the kids received a brown paper bag filled with an apple, orange, peanuts, chocolate drops and ribbon candy. Sometimes, there was a popcorn ball, too. I am embarrassed to admit I hid my bag in my room to enjoy the contents all by myself.

One of my favorite memories was the year I received a special gift from my dad. Mother always did the shopping for gifts. On this particular Christmas, Dad’s eyes sparkled as he told me he had a special present for me. Dad never ever bought me a gift, so my heart just pounded in anticipation. He brought out a box. As I opened it carefully, I found a beautiful Eskimo doll inside. She was soft and pretty and I adored her. I was in my mid-20s and receiving a doll from dad in my adulthood was so unexpected. My heart was so very touched, I remember the tears that came with the smiles.

Dad told me he hoped I would think of him when I looked at the doll. It was Dad’s last Christmas; he passed away the following November. Maybe he knew.

I had a special case built in our family room where my doll is displayed. I know on Christmas morning she will be in my arms giving me comfort and joy as I remember.

Question: Who was the principal of Franklin School in 1991? (Answer on Page A5)

Clothesline Conversation Answer: James Yeakey

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.