As my brothers and sister and I were growing up- not all that long ago- it wasn’t as if we were neglected or doing without. We had hand sewn holiday dresses each year for Easter and Christmas, and new underpants, undershirts, socks and shoes. Sometimes matching coats, hats and even muffs if we were particularly lucky! Remind me to scan photos for you all- so cute.
As well as I remember the holidays, I remember the winters even more. Our house was pretty warm as I recall, but not toasty. We slept upstairs in what today I would call the attic, but I don’t remember ever being cold. Funny how we forget- right? My sister Janis and Mary Ann and I slept in one room, and my sister Kaye had her own little area, and my brothers- good grief I cannot remember where they slept! Somewhere downstairs I bet.
In any case, as soon as the first snowflake fell we would instantaneously be catapulted from our beds, rushing to find our “snow clothes” – whatever those were! Usually a coat, a scarf for the girls and a hat of some sort for the boys, followed by much anguish and gnashing of teeth about boots. Seems to me each year not only did we not have boots- those things you would wear with socks, but the plastic over the shoe things- more like galoshes really. And generally speaking we never had any that fit. We would throw little fits and sometimes tantrums and eventually Mom would put down her cigarette and her Reader’s Digest Condensed book, and go rummage in the kitchen for plastic bread bags and rubber bands. She would line us up, sit us down and find the right amount of bags for each of us. Our boots! Hallelujeh!
From that point on it was every man for him or herself. We would locate old dusty sleds in the basement and Dad would yell, and then we would brave the cows in Mr. Beam’s field, and sled down the big hill, time after time, until finally Mom would come out and ring the bell on the porch and we would be forced to come in and thaw out. I am confident that we were hypothermic, but in those days there was nothing that a hot bath would not cure. I agree with Mom’s theory to this day in fact. Give me a hot bath anytime and I can promise you I will feel better soon.
One year that I remember very clearly was the year that Mom and Dad had a New Year’s Eve party, and although we were supposed to be in bed, the majority of us watched the party from the cracks in our bedrooom doors. There was much cigarette smoking and laughter and piano playing, and I remember the ladies in their wonderful glittery dresses and high heels and glasses filled with ice. As the New Year approached, a number of the ladies joined our fathers out in the snowy driveway where they giddily stepped into Dad’s plastic rowboat, sequins, cigarettes, drinks and all and launched themselves down Mr. Beam’s hill, past the cows and into the future.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my dear friends, the dearest of the dear. Amen and good night.