A Note to My Readers: Christmastime is here. Boxes of ornaments have been opened. Decking the halls is in process. I find myself mindlessly humming a Christmas tune that was a favorite of my mother’s. “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, Lend Your Ear This Way…..” It was a Yule song from her childhood and she made it part of mine. She loved Christmas with a sentimental heart overflowing with a generosity and cheer that overpowered the paucity of her purse. Mom taught me more than a song. She taught me joy.
The brittle cold Decembers of my 1950’s childhood in Auburn, New York were always warmed up when my mother would alight from the 6:10 city bus and walk through our front door. My sister, Mary and I would be curled up in front of our black and white Motorola television watching Alistair Sim as Scrooge. A long wool coat swirled around my mother’s trim ankles. Fur trimmed boots protected her feet from the deep central New York snow. Her French upsweep was covered by a fashionable scarf from Hislop’s department store..a rare self indulgence.
Our front door opened directly to the porch and more often than not…the snow floated in the door with her. It was Christmas time and the rustling, intriguing packages that accompanied her home would be stashed under her bed -away from our prying eyes. I recall lying on my belly on the floor of my mother’s bedroom whispering urgently to my little sister…SHHH! Six year old children are not known for stealth. Somehow Mom had found the time to wrap the gifts and the only glimpse we had was of this year’s wrapping paper. Still we lay there in the darkness pondering and whispering with anticipation of what wonders our mother had in store for us.
Many of our Christmas decorations…were “orphans” from the store she worked at…”NOAH”S ARK” on Genesee Street. Long before the big box stores of Lowe’s and Home Depot…my mother worked six days a week among tires, tools, toys, dishes…and holiday decorations. And on occasion…a NOAH’S ARK holiday decoration made it’s way to our apartment. A box of 12 bulbs…one of its members crushed into fine shards of glittering red. Garlands snarled with tinsel. Eleven shiny red bulbs made a merry and welcome addition to our tree. An evening of cocoa and carols with her daughters sitting on the floor of our living room made light work of releasing the stubborn tangles of tinsel and garlands.
I still have the nativity she rescued. Joseph, Mary, Jesus, an angel, the wise men, shepherds and sheep and donkey all in the original box. It sat in the store…orphaned because the stable was…well…not stable. Every year, we assembled the little scene…with the wobbly nativity from Noah’s Ark. It would not have been so special if we didn’t have to tackle the little fault in its construction and on occasion, give it an adjustment to level the wayward roof.
I don’t remember one toy…and there were plenty that she bought on layaway at NOAH’S ARK…but I do remember my mother’s sweet spirit and the joy she brought to the Christmas traditions in my childhood home.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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