I used to start thinking and planning for Christmas soon after school started each fall. My options for gifts were limited since we never had an allowance so anything I wanted to give I had to make myself.
I wasn't good at running our scroll saw in the shop like my brothers were so making wooden things were out of the question. I was nine and Christmas was fast approaching and the only thing I had ready was a little picture book I had made for Mahlon by sewing pieces of paper together and gluing pretty pictures in it that I had found in old catalogs.
One evening as I was helping Mom unpack a new shipment of things and place them on our store shelves I had an idea. I asked her if I could have the empty box, after she granted me permission I took it upstairs where I carefully cut off a flap, and covered it with some old wall paper scraps. I then glued a plain sheet of paper in the middle and copied a poem about a mothers love onto it. There was still something lacking. I finally decided it still needs a pretty border. My teacher gave a sticker to anyone that got 100% in their lessons and I made up my mind to try extra hard to do my lessons carefully and use the stickers to create a border. It took quite awhile to save enough. Every evening I would run home from school with my hard earned stickers and carefully place them as a frame around the edges of the motto I was making for Mom.
I asked John to cut out some heart shaped pieces of wood and varnish them for me. I then painted a blue rose on the one and wrote Daddy on it. Then painted roses on the others and personalized them for John and David. I felt pleased with my efforts of creating gifts and hid them in a drawer until Christmas morning.
When Christmas morning arrived we were awake early but Mom and Daddy had told us to not get up until they called us. As the sun rose it seemed they would never be ready. Finally they called us and we went downstairs. The boys went out to the barn with Daddy to help with the chores while I helped Mom fix breakfast. We had our regular fried cornmeal mush with tomato gravy and eggs, and then oranges and a cold cereal for something special.
When Daddy and the boys came in from milking the cow and feeding all the animals, we all sat down for breakfast. After breakfast everyone helped with the dishes. And then Daddy got the Bible and read the Christmas story. It was the only day of the year that he would read to us so we all sat quietly and listened carefully. After he was done reading we children had to go back upstairs until they told us it was time to come down. We used to get the gifts we had made and put them in a grocery bag and sit on top of the stairs to try to listen what was happening in the kitchen.
When they called us we ran downstairs and at each of our places at the table was a pile of things covered with one of Mom's pretty kitchen towels. We uncovered the pile and found a plate filled with nuts to crack and a lot of different candy. The boys each got a new shirt and I had a new dress. We each had a little German songbook. We thanked them and then we noticed in the middle of the table was another covered pile. Daddy said that was for everyone to share. We uncovered it and found a pile of books. We were thrilled. We all loved reading and new books were something we all enjoyed.
John, David, and I gave the gifts we had made. Mom thanked me for the motto and hung it on her bedroom wall where it stayed until after I was married.
After we had cracked and eaten some of the nuts and read a chapter or two in our new books Daddy said slyly. I have a feeling we didn't find all our Christmas gifts yet. Why don't we all go down in the shop. We followed him downstairs and there in the lumber bin were three of the prettiest sleds I had ever seen. We hurriedly dressed ourselves in our warmest coats and went outside to try them out. We had a nice hill in the pasture behind the barn and for the rest of the afternoon we rode down that hill and trudged back up. The longer we played the longer the hill seemed when we had to pull our sleds back up but the ride down was so fun we kept on until we were too cold to continue.
We went inside and Mom opened the oven door in our Pioneer Maid cook stove and laid a thick towel on it. We pulled up chairs and rested our feet on it enjoying the delightful warmth that the oven poured over our feet. Mom popped some popcorn and peeled a bowlful of apples and we all sat around basking in the glow of happiness of having had another great Christmas.