With early morning light we searched for just the right tree to be decorated and set before the large bay window. Grandma and Gramps old farm house had seen this same scenario played every December as long as I could remember. I watched Grandpa Slone’s eyes as he surveyed tree after tree...many of which he had planted when he was younger. Few met with his approval. I was learning.
Grandpa felt of the pine needles, then ran his hand up the bark. I asked him why he was doing this and he said, “Watch and learn.’ Grandpa was my hero. Gramps seemed to know everything!
Finally he said, “Ah...” and began clearing the old leaves and grass from around the trees roots. Soon he got his saw from the old farm wagon and began the yearly task of making one more treeless spot in the back of our woods. (It really wasn’t ours, it was his and Grandmas Christmas place...one they had inherited from her parents.)
When the tree finally gave up and tumbled sideways, Gramps looked at me and smiled. I knew from experience I was to give him praise for his efforts...so I informed him, “Just right!” Our yearly ritual had begun once again.
Soon we lugged the tree and loaded it onto the wagon that was just one more thing Grandma had inherited from her parents. Some of its boards needed replacing but it still did the hauling job of another December tree. The Christmas season of l948 had officially begun.
It would soon be Grandma’s job of decorating the inside of the old farmhouse with ancient red crepe paper bells and strung popcorn. The bells were left over from WW II.
Grandma handed me some Christmas cards and sent me to the mailbox. The envelopes held 3 cent stamps in the upper right hand corner.
“Why do you send out so many cards?” I asked the lady whose main article of clothing always seemed to be a large apron. Grandma was my heroine. She made the best food...always cooked on the old iron cook stove that had belonged to her mother. “Watch and learn,” she echoed Gramps words.
By l970 I realized I’d learned many things from these two wonderful people...frugality and love were probably the two most important lessons...assimilated mostly by copying many of their traits.
By this time Gramps had purchased an imitation tree...bought during the month of January...to save some money. It was used until the two of them retired from humanity through death. They were then l09 and ll0 years old.
What I learned I have attempted to pass on to my own grand children...but with little success. None of them were interested in expending the necessary energy to cut down a tree...when one could be purchased from the local lot. So what if it costs a bit more each year...
Today I am learning lessons from my grandchildren. With the computer generation...and with the old horse and wagon from my youth sold...no longer are a few gifts...purchased with hoarded egg money that had been saved by Grandma...even considered.
Christmas (for me) has lost a bit of its magic.
Today children can have most of the expensive toys they want... any time during the year. Christmas stockings are being hung now...mostly for decoration. Christmas carols have taken on a rock and roll tempo.
But thanks to memories...from a long time ago...I can still visit the time that momma would wrap up a box of 8 crayons, a ten cent coloring book, a new pair of under panties...and other small items...and fill one of Grandma’s old rayon stockings...AND, to the delight of my sisters and me...put them under the tree, to be opened as though a hundred dollars had been spent on each of us.
How I wish today’s children could have that experience...OR DO THEY?
Maybe it’s like the current TV show reminds us...love doesn’t come from the store. MAYBE love (and memories) are a little bit more.