As I paid $10.00 for a two-piece Elf on a Shelf outfit yesterday, I thought back to my childhood Christmas stockings. In the 40’s and 50’s we were excited (truly excited) to get an orange, an apple, some mixed nuts and possibly a candy cane or two.
It was post-WWII and these items were not food staples in most households. I always ate the orange first – sweet and juicy running down my chin and sticky on my fingers as I pulled it apart at its veins trying not to squeeze the paper thin flesh. In Enid, OK there were no such things as Cuties or navels the size of small grapefruit. These were plain old grocery store oranges and a rare treat.
Daddy cracked the nuts with his strong work-calloused hands. We got him a ribbed stainless nut cracker years later, though he preferred the sound of the shell cracking into multiple pieces in his hand. I’m certain he enjoyed the amazement on my small face as well. A few days later, when I got around to the apple, he slid his pocket knife from his pants and sliced it into pieces as I ate each slice.
Our Christmas topper was a slightly crumpled silver tin star and each year I placed my swaddled ceramic angel on the tree and carefully placed each strand of hanging tinsel on the lower branches. I’d never heard of fir trees or balsam anything. We bought a simple scraggly pine – usually too tall which required dad to saw and hack off a foot from the bottom to fit it through the door and into the living room. This, of course, created his next task – trimming off the lower branches in order to fit the trunk into the square box tree stand he’d built in 1945. If it was too thick, he’d whittle away with his pocket knife until it fit. All of this happening as my mother exclaimed, “Lewis, that’s too much.” “Lewis, it’s crooked.” “Lewis take those branches and tie them on the back where the ugly hole is.”
I don’t remember dad every arguing or complaining. He had a job to do and he did it. And finally, a few hours later after the tree was properly trimmed with strings of bubble lights, mercury glass bulbs, and silver-bright lead icicles, he plugged in the lights and we stood in amazement at its beauty.
Gifts were small and inexpensive – new panties and socks, pj’s or mittens, but Santa never failed to visit. Dolls that wet themselves, metal play kitchens, a rocking baby cradle, home-made doll clothes that mother sewed while …. (to be continued – part 2)