Such lovely fabric from the sacks Grandma mentions.
“Life is full of ups and downs,” my seventy-nine-year old grandmother wrote in 1993 and submitted to me to publish in Motherhood & Me, a newsletter magazine I published for several years back in the day… “especially in 1921,” she tells.Woven in her story is a message just for you today. So I felt it fitting to share her story.
It was Christmas, 1921, and Dad was laid off from the Coat Hanger Factory. My parents loved the whole bunch of us kids (12), but we were poor. So poor, that I was already seven years old and I had never had a store bought baby doll, and dim hopes of ever having one.
Unlike today, the gifts we received back then on Christmas morning were usually candy, popcorn balls, and one orange. Mother always tried her best to sew each one of us a piece of clothing that she had labored for hours to make, so we would feel special.
Like many others in those days, we never had store bought clothes. Even our underwear were recycled and made from Moses Best Flour sacks and Jack Frost Sugar sacks. Sometimes it was Moses on the front side, and Jack on the backside of our bloomers.
Real flour sacks. It was the depression era, so this helped them recycle the sacks into clothing, bloomers or quilts and such.
On this sad Christmas morning, we saw Mother and Dad talking to each other so we children couldn’t hear. By noon, there were no usual preparations for Christmas dinner. We knew that because Dad was laid off, we didn’t have enough money for a proper Christmas dinner or presents. But I was so hungryand couldn’t help but ask, “Mother what is for dinner?” And without a reply or a hint to her grief, Mother and Dad went silently to the kitchen.
Soon, the pleasant aroma of food filled the house. But it was not turkey or fancy food like some folks enjoy on Christmas Day. That Christmas we had potatoes, salt bacon, green beans and corn. All the food Mother had worked so hard to store for the winter. We did not complain, we were so hungry. It was very good and best of all we were loved.
After the delicious meal, Mother began to play the organ, and Dad played the violin. My mother’s name was Grace, so I always loved to hear them sing Amazing Grace—thinking they were singing about her. They sang many Christmas carols and hymns. When they sang Silent Night face to face, their voices blended in perfect harmony and sounded like sweet angels to my ears.
By now we had forgotten about the sad part of Christmas day. Then there came a knock at the door and in came my rich Aunt and Uncle. They brought gifts all wrapped in the most beautiful fashion, and lots and lots of different kinds of food. Much to my surprise, they handed me the largest package. So large it took my breath away. I had never in my seven years received such a present.
Carefully I tore the wrapping paper off, savoring every moment. I could not possibly know what was in the package, for I couldn’t remember ever seeing a package so large! But I said a silent prayer to God for my wish to come true, “Please let this be a baby doll for me.”
A 1921 Sears catalog. I wonder which baby doll Grandma received?
I managed to open it by myself as everyone watched my wish come true as I lifted the most beautiful store bought doll out of the box. The prettiest I had ever seen. Her eyes opened and closed. She wore pretty clothes and she even wore her own shoes.
Just when I thought nothing in the whole world could be better, another knock came on the door and much to our surprise there stood Santa Claus! We kids were so scared we hid behind Mother. He passed out candy canes anyway, another treat, wished us a Merry Christmas, and then left.
To this day, I do not know who Santa was! But I do know that that was quite a learning experience, in that just when we think things couldn’t be worse, God sends his “angels” to brighten up our day. For me that Christmas was perfect in every way.
So Here’s the Thing: Grandma summed up her hand written story: “It remains a belief of mine, that God sends the rough trials to those He loves the most to test their strength and endurance. And then, He richly blesses them beyond words for being faithful. The Lord will provide.” She passed in 2008, one month shy of her 94th birthday but left much love and wisdom as written in My Best Christmas, 1921, by Flora Fender.