Even though we were probably considered poor, Daddy and Mother always made sure we had wonderful holidays: The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm sure it took them the whole next year to pay for Christmas, but I don't think we fully realized the scope of their sacrifices for us until we grew up and had families - and extended families - of our own. I wonder if they ever knew how much we appreciated it.
Once, Daddy hung two small, very light packages on the tree. One was for Lena and the other was for me. We shook and rattled and rattled and shook, but they never made a sound! On Christmas morning, these were the first ones we opened because our curiosity had gotten the better of both of us. Mine was a beautiful light green, with print, silky head scarf; Lena's was yellow, as I remember. We were so proud of those scarves because our Daddy had given them to us.
Mother always let the girls help her make cookies, cakes, candy and pies: pumpkin, mincemeat, and raisin ones. The house smelled so good as the baking smells mingled with the smells of fruit and candy coming from the wash house (in Johnson Bottom) and the buffet at Peter Creek. It seemed we could even smell the assorted nuts, too.
We never had a Christmas tree stand and Daddy or Junior had to nail two pieces of wood, criss-cross style, at the bottom of the tree. I don't think we ever had one that stood perfectly straight. We all had a hand in the decorating. Junior would get impatient after a while and begin throwing his icicles on the tree instead of putting them on one at a time the way Lena and I did. After he left the room, we'd take his off and put them on again - one at a time! The back of the tree never did get decorated if it was against the wall or in a corner. After all, we couldn't see the back of it. That makes sense, doesn't it? We mixed Ivory Snow flakes with water and made gobs and gobs of snow to put on the tree. I don't thing we realized that it looked more like gobs of soap than snow.
On Christmas morning, the living room at our house was beautiful. The lights would be on and the room seemed to be filled to the brim with toys and other gifts. The fruit, nuts and candy - that "Santa" had brought - was under the tree, too.
The girls played with dolls at make-believe tea parties while the boys played with guns and holsters and "boy" things. As we got older, Mother would let us wear jewelry she had gotten and even put on some of her makeup. You know, I just remembered that she occasionally got makeup for Christmas, but I don't remember ever having seen her wear any back then.
One year, when we lived in Johnson Bottom, Mother and Daddy went to Williamson and Lena and I had to watch the "youngins." We entertained them until we got bored and then got a bright idea! The wash house was never locked until about a month before Christmas each year. We found where the key was hidden and let the little ones play with the toys until almost time for Mother and Daddy to come home. They didn't tell on us. I don't know if they were so young they forgot or if they wanted to help Lena and me keep the "secret of the wash house." Of course, it could have been the fact that we threatened to take them to Matewan and leave them on the doorstep of some strange family if they told.
I learned from those Christmases and Cassell and I made sure that our sons had wonderful holidays. I hope they have many memories of wonderful times just as I do.
Now, I'm about to spend the third Christmas with a man I met when I was fourteen years old. We spent a lot of time together in high school, but never said more than a few words to each other that were of a personal nature. Even though I loved Cassell deeply, I never forgot Luke. God gave us a second chance after 40 years apart. Believe me, I know how very blessed I am. My life has changed drastically since I married Luke....all for the better. I didn't know how lonely I was until I met him again. Now, the two of us are making Christmas memories together.