Yesterday's Magazette

12 – Becoming A Woman On Christmas

Becoming A Woman On Christmas

By Eve Krupinski

From the window of the second floor of our farmhouse, I gazed over the snow-covered fields. As I breathed, an icy film appeared on the window, and from time to time, I erased it with the cuff of my flannel nightgown.

Somehow or other, I knew this Christmas of 1924 was to be the best ever. How could it be otherwise? So many wonderful things had happened to me during the year. I had celebrated my sixteenth birthday in September, which led to my being allowed to drink my first cup of coffee. I was now looked upon as a “young woman” by my family.

I had won an essay contest in school and received the applause of my fellow classmates with my poetry offerings. What more could happen to make 1924 any better?

If this Christmas morning followed the pattern of others in our family, something special would be waiting for someone. Could I hope that the someone would be me?

Previous Christmases I got a doll made of corncobs; a pie-plate filled with hard candy, an orange and five shiny, new pennies. Every other year brought gifts of new long drawers, stockings and high-topped shoes. There just had to be something special about this Christmas. I felt it in my bones!

Having washed my face in the cold water in the basin and dressed, I thought of the years Mama and Grandma had tugged at my hair; braiding it as I now was. I tied a ribbon around the end of the plait and wondered what my family would say if I should tell them that I was tired of long hair. I fantasized about cutting it off … short … real short … about the length of my uncle’s hair.

Downstairs in the kitchen, the younger children and I tolerated a breakfast of ham, eggs, hot biscuits and fresh milk. It always seems as if the adults ate in slow motion on Christmas morning. I wondered if it were to slow down our being anxious to go into the parlor and open our gifts.

After the table had been cleared, dishes washed, and the table reset for the next meal; we were ushered into the parlor by Grandma. A fire had been set in the old Latrobe stove and the room was filled with the voices of excited children and laughing adults.

The huge tree in the corner had been cut down a week ago and was now festooned with popped-corn and cranberries strung on thread. There were ornaments made of paper and bits of material too small to be used in making quilts. We even had beautiful fall leaves that had been dipped in paraffin wax to preserve their color.

Grandma handed me a package and I felt a shiver of delight as I unwrapped it. Removing the lid, I gasped as I looked upon a silver handled hair brush, silver-edged comb and silver-backed hand mirror. The mirror reflected my pleasure as Grandma stood behind me and watched.

Slowly, Mama and Grandma removed the bow from the end of my braid and separated the hair into two equal hanks. Mama brushed and Grandma combed as I realized what was to happen. My hair was going to be ‘put up’! I put my hand over my heart to feel the wonderful throbbing and gloried in the fact that on this Christmas morning I was going beyond being “a young woman.” If my hair was “put up” … . then I was truly a WOMAN!

I closed my eyes in sheer pleasure as Grandma coiled the two hanks of hair into a figure eight and held it to the back of my head while she withdrew her hand-carved ivory hairpins from her own hair and affixed them to mine.

She whispered in my ear, “The hairpins are yours to keep. That is my gift to you.”

I wept with joy knowing this would forever be my favorite Christmas.

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