At Christmas time I often think back to a Christmas 60 years ago when I was just six years old. There are those who would say it’s uncanny to be able to remember things that long ago and at that young age. I have found that you remember what you want to, even when it’s not a good memory. Memories are made by you and they are erased by you.
There is a good memory to me that comes to mind, but to many it is one they would have erased. It was Christmas Eve, 1947 in the small town of Staples, Minn. I had three sibling brothers, the youngest just months old, while I was six. The Great War had been over for many months. Factories that had run night and day for years were idle now, the soldiers were back home now and no longer needed their wares. Jobs were hard to find. My father worked as a soda jerk in a confectionery up town for a quarter an hour.
We lived in the upstairs of a house that was more like an attic than living quarters. Our clothes were cast offs from neighbor kids and relatives. We had no toys and no place to play if we did have toys. But I do remember that year a Christmas tree. It was a real tree with bubble lights and popcorn balls and icicles. One thing was lacking though — it was bare underneath it. No gifts. I remember looking under it each day, but each day it remained bare. Then Christmas Eve came and the six of us gathered around that tree. Dad read to us the story of Jesus’ birth, and then he disappeared for a moment. When he returned he had a wooden sled with steel runners. It was obvious it wasn’t new and had been refurbished. He said it was for all of us boys. I remember my mother holding my baby brother, nursing him and crying softly. I remember the lights on the tree reflecting in dad’s wet eyes also.
Since then I have experienced Christmases that could only be described as lavish. But I remember very little about those Christmases. You see I had seen the true spirit of Christmas those many years ago, and that was the one I wanted to keep in my mind. I had witnessed two people who gave so little that night, but loved so much. The sled wore out and was cast away, but that night will live on in my memory until God stills my mind.