Christmas Past

Author: Bruce Cook

Today, at the age of seventy-eight, when I hear the song I’ll Be Home For Christmas and the words “if only in my dreams” it seems to trigger childhood memories of Christmas. I grew up in a time when people had the true meaning and spirit of Christmas and the season. Even though they were the great depression years and a time of very little gift giving, people always knew the true meaning of Christmas; the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We had all learned this from our early years because nearly all of us attended Sunday school and/or church. I can’t say that this is true today and it gives me a deep feeling of sadness. As a nation I feel that we are falling into a period of spiritual decay. People do not want to attend church and are determined to have Christ and God taken out of nearly every aspect of our public lives along with many other Christian beliefs that I could write several pages about. I’m sure that God will be getting our attention one of these days concerning these matters.

Each year as I am drawn back to the Christmas’s of my youth I seem to revisit the same Christmas’s at different times in my life. Although I can’t recall any unhappy ones, I don’t know why I remember only these particular ones.

One of the earliest Christmas’ that I can remember was when I was probably three or four years old. We were living in my grandmother and grandfather’s unfinished attic. It had no heat and the wind would blow snow under the eaves of the roof. We were living there because Mom and Dad had lost everything because of the depression. My Aunt Bea had been getting work at the Pillsbury bag plant and bought my brother and me a couple of toy cars to find under the tree on Christmas morning. I remember our excitement when we came down the stairs that Christmas morning and saw them.

At the age of probably seven or eight my father had obtained a job at the factory where my Grandfather was employed. We were able to move from my Grandparents house and rent an isolated one room house at the top of Brooke Cemetery for a couple of years with no running water and an outside toilet. We were then able to move into a four room house close to my fathers work. This particular Christmas my parents had purchased a wrecked bicycle from my uncle in Pennsylvania for five dollars, which was a lot of money for them to come up with at that time. Dad worked at repairing it for me and finished by giving it a new paint job. I talked mom into letting me ride it before Christmas with some other boys, it was like you had given me a million bucks. At Christmas I got enough money to buy a new inner tube for one of my tires. I rode this bike until I graduated from high school. I became a master at repairing it, especially the new departure brakes; I think I could do it in the dark.

Most of the time our Christmas gift would consist of a game, toy, writing tablet, coloring book, or pencils and crayons for school. One of the years when I was in Junior high school I got my uncles checkered jacket. I can’t remember whether he didn’t like it or it didn’t fit but mom and dad bought it for me. It was really a warm jacket and I wore it several winters.

People today can’t imagine how much our generation appreciated Christmas, the gifts that we cherished and how we tried to take care of each one of them. We enjoyed a small amount of candy from the church, an apple or orange at Christmas time or once in a while a few English walnuts. My mother was an excellent cook and our meals were always a treat.

I thank God for those times and the parents that God provided for me. How hard it must have been and how bad they must have felt at times. I realize now how much they sacrificed to provide for my brother and me. It taught me to appreciate everything that I got. I believe it made me a better man for having gone through those years. We always went to Sunday school and church and enjoyed all of the church activities of the time or season. We kept Christ in Christmas.

As I watch and listen to people today I’m not sure whether I am disappointed, mad, sad or just disgusted with all that I see and hear. Maybe a little of each. I blame my generation of parents for starting the trend of too much gift giving. We seemed to have wanted to give our children all kinds of gifts that we didn’t get. As a result of this our generation of children picked up on it and made it even worse. As I watch children unwrap their many gifts as if it’s a contest. They unwrap a gift and quickly lay or toss it aside and move on to the next one. Some get more gifts in one Christmas than most of us got in all of our years of growing up. However there are still some children today who get very few Christmas gifts unless charities kick in to help them.

We have become a society of people who have twisted the meaning of Christmas into a world of commercialism. Some people buy on credit or max out their credit cards and are still paying for last Christmas when the next one arrives.

As I sit here now looking out the window on my old neighborhood where I spent five and a half of my grade school years, I remember all of the kids on the block and how on Christmas morning we couldn’t wait to see what each one got for Christmas. Many of them are gone now but I’ll always remember them, especially at Christmas time, and be thankful for my years of childhood that we shared with each other.

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