Saturday, December 26, 2009

Who Remembers Cherry Chocolates?

Do you remember that once a year Dad treated himself to a box of cherry chocolates? I think these were his favorite, but he shared one or more with all of us.

And we all know that the Whitman's Sampler box in Mom's dresser drawer was a treasured possession in which she stored her most valuable possessions.

Our Christmas stockings were the first evidence of a Christmas miracle and, in some years, virtually most of the evidence of a Christmas miracle.  But our stockings never ceased to charm and amaze us.  Full of lovely things like an orange, some peanuts, ribbon and hard tack candy, unshelled nuts, and some times a little surprise of one kind or another.  These things were so precious because we would never see any of these things any other time of the year, while today all of us keep most of these things continually in our pantries.  We rationed the candy and the peanuts, saved the orange for a special moment, cracked a hard nut now and then, and squirreled the stocking away with its treasures for another magic moment.

There were elements of severe inequity, however, especially in our younger years, since the dear sisters all wore lovely and becoming long brown cotton stockings, while I had a short Rockford sock with a red heel.  To rectify this egregious misallocation of Santa's loot, the much maligned Christmas event occurred when, wisely I thought, to even out all of these years of deprivation, I cut a hole in my sock and put the top lid of my typewriter case beneath it.  For this, I, a good boy, was rewarded with a load of coal.

One reason why Christmas was so magic to us as young children was because Dad always came home for Christmas, though he had to be away so very much of the time trying to earn a few dollars here and there to keep his growing family in food and clothing.  Dad brightened our lives, and usually managed to find a few other goodies somewhere to add to what Mother had already acquired.

I think, looking back over through the cloudy lens and tears of time, that Christmas for us was a transcendant feeling of awe, and expectation, and happiness.  Because of this aura surrounding our humble abode when we were little, and surrounding our little tree with its scant paper and homemade decorations and tinsel that was saved from year to year, like birthday cake candles, I don't recall that we ever felt deprived on Christmas.  What we felt was more important than what we got.  And we received much love and caring from our parents and from each other.  I know that our parents grieved to themselves about not being able, ever, to give us more abundant and expensive gifts, but they gave us all that they had and could give, which was more abundant than just enough. 

And, by the way, Ann and Steve look deceptively innocent in the header photo.  Beware.


Ann said...

You were doing great until the last line.
But you are right about the feeling of awe that always surrounded Christmas, even for me, who never knew the hardship of having Dad gone, as you three older siblings did. All of my memories include Dad being home all the time. I am thankful Mom and Dad were able to find a way to solve that challenge.
Christmas in Penrose was magical. That magic happened each year, even when our numbers kept decreasing. The love of family, the safety of our little haven, the clear night sky so full of stars we had to look hard for the brightest star on Christmas Eve when we took our nightly journey before going to bed - they are all part of the magic that helps keep me warm on cold winter days.

Thank you Dwight, for writing your thoughts so perfectly. It is nice to have you back.

Steve Blood said...

It is truly a great Christmas rememberance. At least we were not labled, "villans."

Elizabeth said...

This brings up a myriad of thoughts and recollections. By the way, some years chocolate drops were included in the stockings, and there were favorite flavors. And, Louise would always hoard her stocking contents longer than anyone else, and then would eat in front of the rest of us, as we watched in total envy.
And in Penrose, sometimes, there would be extra candy and nuts on the kitchen table - as Dad would come in from milking, he would comment that Santa must have had more than he needed for others. I don't know when the knowledge that Santa was more about the Spirit of Christmas than a real person, but it never mattered - I wrote letters to him until I left home for good. Once, in Washington, out in the garage-shop, as Dad and I were working on the big picture, we were shuffling through some boxes of veneer pieces, and came across a pattern with Mother's writing on it. Dad got a little teary, and commented on how much he missed her. Somehow, from that, we got on the subject of Christmas and Santa Claus. He disclosed that Mother was the force behind the Santa fun, although he participated. I told him that one Christmas in Penrose, I stayed awake, watched the light go off in the shop, and heard Mother come in and go to bed. I peeked out our bedroom door, and there was nothing under the tree except what we had put there before going to bed (our annual "gift exchange"). Louise and Judy were asleep in our bedroom, and I suppose Dwight and Steve and Ann were, too. I tried so hard to stay awake, but finally drifted off. Lo, and behold, in the morning, there were the full stockings, and more gifts under the tree. Made a total believer out of me!

Shannon Blood said...

A-ha! Hillarie and I (Mark was yet too little) now know where the hole-in-the-stocking-resulting-in- a-pile-of-coal-below idea comes from. Dad did just that one Christmas when we were wee things. We've teased him about it ever since for greediness. We hadn't realized the roots of this habit were to right a wrong of such proportion.

Judy said...

Hi Shannon Marie! Good to have you aboard! It is so easy to see how traditions, etc. get passed on to the next generation.

Judy said...

I still love chocolate cherries. If I am going to cheat and eat some chocolate, let it be this way!