Monday, October 10, 2011

Christmas, Nineteen Fifteen, by Grace Cornell Newton. 1978

The first of which I have a fairly good memory was Christmas, 1915. All our Christmases were beautiful. The tree in all its majesty dominated the small apartment. The mingled smell of pine and wax, the glittering tinsel, the glass ornaments and balls, cornucopias filled with a kind of candy that seemed to belong to Christmas, the little candles in their spring holders with their tiny flickering lights -- all the greens and reds and golds almost hiding the branches right on down to the floor. The tree itself was Christmas. It appeared miraculously, not the day after Thanksgiving, but on Christmas morning. It never failed to overwhelm me when I awakened to see all the little candles lighted in the dark of early morning.

Even though I somehow realized that Mamma and Daddy were the ones who arose early and lit the candles with a big "kitchen match," Christmas was a miracle no matter that its trappings were wrought by human hands. It was not just THINGS, but a FEELING.

This was the Christmas that we kids all received play costumes, exactly the ones we each had "ordered." Sister [Elizabeth] wanted an Indian squaw dress, so that's what was in the box under the tree for her. The big brother [Willie] wanted to be a cowboy, so a cowboy suit was there for him. The little brother [Jerry] was more inclined to follow his sister's ideas, so he asked for and got a little Indian suit. All my hopes rested on being a policeman, and a very convincing one I became that Christmas morning. My outfit consisted of a navyblue suit with bras buttons on the coat and white piping on the mandarin-type collar and the cuffs, plus white stripes down the pant legs. Finally I wore a navy cap with a hard shiny black visor, and I carried a "billy club." Beaumont's finest would have envied me. I was even "mounted," on a tricycle. But, alas, my mount was soon stolen by that little Indian and I was forced to patrol my beat on foot.

I remember that the two big kids had skates, and many a crisp winter's evening just before dark I would stand by the side of the house beneath the kitchen window and dejectedly watch the skaters zoom down Calder Avenue with the little Indian in hot pursuit on my tricycle.

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