Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

GRANDMOTHERS SPEAK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas 1940

 

There is something about Christmas that makes our hearts skip a beat and hold still for a second. It is seen in the fascinated gaze of a little child’s eyes when they see their first Christmas tree lights. It is in the wonder of surprise at the sight of first snow on a winter day that brings me joy, sadness, and tears of hope.

 

There is magic at this time of year all things just for one moment in time are possible.  The door is open and all we need to do is step in and find our answer to eternal love, hope, and peace.

 

I remember the time before Christmas and the anticipation a child can feel.  Even when we knew that there would be little under our brush pine tree we still held hope in our hearts.    We made ornaments from walnuts shells and tin foil that we carefully saved from the gum and cigarette wrappers others threw away. We strung pop corn and filled hand made paper cones with pop corn and hung them from the branches. During the day we would eat the pop corn from the cones until it was all gone. There were five candy canes on the tree, one for each of us that would be given out on Christmas day. A tin star cut from a coffee can lid, sadly bent and tarnished, topped the tree. These few hand made ornaments along with some old and carefully hung glass balls completed our decoration.

 

On Christmas Eve we would try to stay up as late as possible to hear Santa when he landed his sleigh on the roof.   It never occurred to us that we did not have a chimney for him to come down, there was only an old rusted stove pipe that stuck straight out from the ranch house. To us all things were possible and all things could come true during those few magic hours.

 

Dad always went hunting and we had fresh deer for Christmas or a goose if we were lucky. We had  canned vegetables from our summer garden, along with apple and squash pie, and plenty of nuts and dry fruit.  Mom would make her molasses depression cake that took no eggs, milk,  or sugar, and we  would wait to sample the batter that she left in the bowl. My little brother and I got a spoon full to lick, we were very happy with this treat. It was not every day we had cake so the mere thought of Christmas cake was a thrill. 

 

Sugar and butter, among other things were rationed at this time.  If you did not have a cow you had to rely on canned milk and margarine instead of butter.

 

The nearest store was over 70 miles away from the ranch in Lovelock, Nevada,  and our trips to town were once a month.  We were not able to go to the corner store to buy things, even if we could afford them.  Snow covered the thirty miles of narrow road leading to the high way, and the single low phone line was in constant threat of being down that time of the year.

 

We entertained ourselves and sing along to the old tube radio if it was able to pick up a station with Christmas music.  Other than that we relied on our own talents during Christmas Eve.  

 

My older brother would sing and play the guitar, and my mother played the harmonica. Dad had a wonderful singing voice that was deep and strong, he led us in the carols that to this day I enjoy singing. We harmonized and sang for hours until it was late, then we went to bed and waited for morning to come.

 

At first sign of light I bounced out of my bed and raced to the tree along with my little brother Curtis. There was the usual hard rubber doll with hand made cloths that my mother had sewn in secret. Small carved horses and wooden trucks for the my little brother lay under the tree. Two Sling shots made from cotton wood tree branches with rubber inner tubes straps for my older brothers.

 

My father had made these toys in the wood shop when he was not working on  the cattle on the ranch.

I picked up my doll and held her tight admiring the wonderful dress that matched the fabric in the one I wore. We played with our toys and waited for Mom and Dad before we opened the few presents that were wrapped under the sugar pine tree.

 

I saw a very large present hidden back against the wall and we all wondered who this might be for.  We knew that there was one present each,  and that was usually warm long johns or flannel gowns,  or some other hand made clothes.  I remember Mother treading on the old sewing machine late into the night, sewing the precious material into dresses and shirts for us to wear.

 

There had been a few packages come from Sears before the snow had closed the road to the ranch. These mail order catalogues were our only way of getting things from the city. We would spend hours looking at the catalogue and admiring the toys and clothes. Mom would look at the kitchen stoves and refrigerators and Dad would read about the new tools for ranching.

 

Mostly everything we had was shipped from Montgomery Ward or Sears in those days. The war had stopped some  items from being sold in the stores but you could still get things from the catalogue.

 

Between the mail order and our shopping trip to Reno’s 5c and 10 store,  we were content with what we had for Christmas.

 

I waited to see who the package was for and my mother did not seem to be paying attention to this big box.

I saw the patch work wrapping on the box of brown paper bags carefully taped together. I wondered what could be so big as to have a box that size. Finally mom handed out the few presents to my bigger brothers and then to me and my little brother but still the big box remained unclaimed.  

 

Finally Dad went over to the box and said, “Seems that someone has a gift here from Santa that is not named.”  A feeling of warmth flooded my heart as he looked right at me and handed me that big box. I could not move my hands I was so excited and finally my  brother said, “open it.”  My hands pulled at the paper,  I saw a card board box but still no idea of what was in it.

 

With some help from my older brother Robert I was able to open the box.  There inside was a beautiful doll house, it was hand made in wood shop by my big brother Robert. He had used it as his wood craft project and then as my Christmas gift. Mom had made curtains and little corn husk dolls for the house. There were thread spool chairs and tables, a match box bed complete with mattress and hand sewn quilts. I was in heaven,  that doll house was my most treasured possession for years. Through the years there was more furniture added to the doll house; but none so wonderful as the hand made ones.

 

Every one in the family had helped make the furniture including Dad who carved the kitchen stove and bath tub from soft pine wood. The hours that I spent playing with that doll house were ones that I will never forget.

 

Love and blessings of the season, Waynonaha

 

Copyright © 2004  by Waynonaha Two Worlds All publication rights reserved.

 


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