“Nannie, Can we make gingerbread men like your Mama made?” Kristen asked as she looked up at her great grandmother.
“Oh, I know we can. We may bake gingerbread men tomorrow afternoon.” Nannie said as the timer on the oven beeped.
“Now, lets have cookies fresh from the oven with a glass while of milk and I will tell you all about Christmases past.”
Kristen’s enormous blue eyes twinkled as she climbed on Nannie’s red step stool/chair and laughed as Nannie pushed the vintage stool close to the table.
“Now,” Nannie said as cookies, milk were in place before them and Kristen said a quick blessing, the story began. “When I was your age, I had two older brothers and a baby sister, Maggie. We were a poor family but we were rich in the blessing of love.
“Did you have a Christmas tree?”
“Oh, yes. We always had a Christmas tree. Some years we had small trees but in 1919 we had a wonderful, large tree.
“Did you get to help put the lights and decorations on the tree?”
“Oh, no. We didn’t have electricity.” Nannie smiled at little Kristen’s reaction. “Few people in our neighborhood had electricity. We lit kerosene lamps and candles. There were shelves on the wall to hold the lamps so that they wouldn’t get knocked over. That would have caused a fire, you see.”
“In 1919, we didn’t help with the tree at all. Mama and Papa liked to surprise us. Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, Mama told us to hang us our largest sock on a hook on the mantle of the fireplace. It was so exciting! Eugene and Curtis knew what to expect but it was my first Christmas that I would remember.” Nannie signed, took a sip of milk and looked ahead as if seeing that Christmas on the wall of her memory. “It was hard to go to sleep that night.
My brothers had told me something special would happen in the morning and no matter what, ‘don’t get out of bed!’ Of course, I heard a lot of strange sounds coming from the front room – that’s what Mama called our living room.”
“Oh,” Kristen said as she stuffed the last piece of cookie into her mouth. “What made the noises?”
“I didn’t know. I heard my brothers giggling from their side of the curtain dividing our room. Sometimes I thought I heard Papa’s voice and Mama’s soft laugh but I knew that couldn’t be true because Papa always went to bed at sundown because he had to get up so early to do chores. I finally got to sleep but before the rooster crowed, Eugene and Curtis woke me up. They each held my hand as we walked into the front room with their hands over my eyes. ‘Squeeze your eyes closed – real tight,’ they said. When Mama told me to open my eyes, I couldn’t believe it! A beautifully decorated tree with candles had appeared in the room! At least that’s what I thought.” Nannie said with a chuckle.
Kristen leaned close and whispered, “Were there bunches of pretty presents under the tree?”
“We each had two gifts under the tree. Mama always knitted hats, scarves and mittens for us; wrapping them as one package and Papa had made a special gift for each of us. He built a small dollhouse for me, complete with furniture and a doll family to live in it. I was so excited, I almost forgot to look in my sock. The boys didn’t forget, however. They went to the socks first. Each sock contained an orange which was a treat for us. We only had oranges at Christmas. There were nuts, a silver dollar, peppermint sticks and I got new hair ribbons. The boys got brand new pencils and a harmonica for each. We were so excited about our new gifts, we almost forgot breakfast.”
“What did the boys get under the tree, Nannie?”
“They got hand carved horses from Papa.” Nannie smiled and poured more milk for Kristen. “We had pancakes for breakfast. Just as we were beginning to eat, there was a knock on the door. It was then we realized it was snowing. Papa went to the door and there was a large basket of food with our name on it. The card was signed, Merry Christmas!” Nannie stopped to wipe her eyes with the corner of her apron. “The basket of food was sitting on a brand new sled for us to share. You see, we were very poor that Christmas and didn’t even have a chicken to roast for Christmas dinner. There was a turkey with all the fixins’, two pies and a cake. Flour, sugar, salt and coffee were also in the basket. Mama told us only Jesus knew she had used the rest of the ingredients on the pancakes. She said that she prayed about making the gingerbread men because she wouldn’t have enough to bake bread after Christmas. When she sat down at the table, she opened her Bible. God said He would provide and He did.
After breakfast, papa got out his old banjo and we sang Christmas carols all day. The best part was reading about how God provided His Son, baby Jesus so that we can go to Heaven and live with Him some day. You see, Christmas isn’t about the gifts, the food or even about the tree. It’s about Jesus; our Savior who left Heaven to be born of a virgin in a stable with a manger for a bed like a lamb.”
“I love Jesus!” Kristen said as she slid off her stool to give Nannie a big hug. “I love Christmas too.”
“Me too,” Nannie said as she returned the hug. “Now, when you come back tomorrow we will bake gingerbread boys while I tell you about your Grammy’s Christmas when she was your age.”
Just then the doorbell rang and Kristen’s mother walked into the kitchen. “I want to be part of that too! I’ve never heard that story before.”
“Oh, if you come often enough, I could tell enough stories to fill a book. I’m so glad you came! Walking down memory lane always makes me feel like a child again – experiencing the joy of Christmas all over again and again.”