Yesterday's Magazette

9 – An Extra Christmas Gift

An Extra Christmas Gift

By Mary W. Anderson

On Christmas Eve my mother, three brothers and I walked one-half mile from our farm to our church. Soft snowflakes fell, but I didn’t mind the cold because I had on a heavy coat, stocking cap, mittens and boots.

A bell rang in the belfry of the one-room, white-frame building. There, in the dim light of the portable, gasoline lanterns, I saw about 100 people sitting in the pews. Most of the adults had already placed gifts on the tree. Mother, with her wavy, bobbed hair and gray-green eyes and wearing a brown dress almost covered by her overcoat, went down the aisle to the cedar Christmas tree that touched the ceiling. She placed four packages on the tree. I knew one would be for me.

To a six-year-old, the tree was beautiful with the strings of popcorn, ornaments and red-and-green packages. Around the base of the tree stood bright, open boxes filled with sacks of hard candy and an orange in each sack. Every Christmas Eve, I and every other child in the audience received an orange and candy. Red apples were plentiful in my home, but an orange was a real treat.

I knew Santa Claus didn’t bring presents, but I anxiously awaited his arrival anyway. I squirmed, rubbed the dust off my high-top shoes, smoothed wrinkles from my new blue dress, and touched the big plaid bow attached to short braids on top of my head.

The packages remained on the tree until after many prayers, carols and recitations. Santa then arrived with his “ho-ho-ho” and a vivid description of his long trip with his reindeers.

Then Santa’s helpers read the names on each package and delivered the gift to an adult or child. Finally, my turn came. The package held a doll, wearing a blue dress. I was surprised that the doll’s frock matched my own dress.

While holding and looking at the doll, all of a sudden I heard my name called again. I opened the package and found a kitchen range, about 12 inches high. The stove had a door in front for wood, four caps on top for cooking utensils and a warming oven attached to the short stovepipe. It looked like mother’s kitchen range.

After opening the oven door of the stove and imagining how 1 would enjoy playing with it, 1 heard my mother’s voice. “Mary, that’s not your gift.”

Then Mrs. Edwards, wearing a black-checked cotton dress and sweater, and with her straight hair in a bun, approached. She had a kind face. I didn’t know her first name and had never talked with her because she lived four miles away and usually attended another church.

She smiled and spoke to my mother.

“I gave the range to Mary because she reminds me of the little girl I lost years ago.”

Many, many years have passed since then, and the little kitchen range is long gone. However, Mrs. Edwards’ gift is still my favorite Christmas memory.


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