My Turn: Christmas is for children and we all are children of God
The first 16 years of my life in southern California didn’t bring many white Christmases. If we were lucky it might rain a little and be foggy enough to pretend it was a white one. My dad was a plaster contractor, and Mother worked in the accounting field. My two brothers were older and that left me to go to school and be with my grandmother, who lived with us. My grandmother looked like grandmothers used to look, when I was a child. She had beautiful long, silver white hair, braided plaits wrapped around her head. She wore paisley dresses and black-stacked heeled shoes with little cutouts. Grandmother braided rugs, quilted quilts, made aprons and potholders, which we sold throughout the neighborhood. She was also an incredible baker and I credit her with the most delicious divinity fudge ever made.
We lived in a modest environment where family came first and money was a necessary commodity of living. Our mother had the ability to make a home out of a closet. We never ate in front of the T.V., and dinnertime was for sharing the day’s events. Christmases were always great even though I can’t remember the presents I got, except for the bike my Dad bought, second hand, and refurbished. Yes there was the occasional lump of coal and something that resembled a hickory stick, just to keep us on our toes, Christmas was never disappointing.
When I was in the 5th grade my father fell from a 14-foot scaffold and crushed his heel bone. My mother was suffering from minor heart problems. At any rate, we had to rent out our house and move to Selma, Ore., a little spot on the map outside of Grants Pass. Our Aunt and Uncle owned about 100 acres of forest filled with Douglas fir trees. They lived in a log cabin. Across the meadow was a little shack that sat on stilts, which consisted of one big room and a 4x8 closet. It boasted a potbelly stove for heating and a white kerosene stove for cooking. Outside the kitchen window sat a water tank, which was fed by a hose that meandered down to the stream. In the winter time the pump would freeze and dad would have to trudge down to the stream, on his crutches, to get it working. The toilet facilities were of the highest quality. We had a two-holer, with toilet seats, about 20 feet from the cabin. We were living on the charity of relatives; therefore money for any luxuries was nonexistent
As Christmas approached little things would appear beneath the Christmas tree, which was decorated with hand-made ornaments. The little shack glowed with the warmth from the pot bellied stove, kerosene lamps, and candles. The 4x8 closet was my bedroom with enough room for an army cot. Mom and Dad slept in the living room on a hide-a-bed. Somehow Mom had turned that little shack into the brightest, warmest room imaginable. Christmas morning came and I opened my gifts. Mom hade made me two blouses and matching skirts out of 10-cent-a-yard flannel and bought me one new pair of Levi’s. I still have a picture of myself wearing one of these outfits. Outside the snow was falling; the snowflakes large, soft and fluffy. The shack was filled with the aroma of new baked bread, cookies and fudge.
After my Dad healed from his injuries we moved back to Norwalk, Calif., and we enjoyed several years of California bliss and sunshine until one day we had to start locking our doors. That was when Dad decided we needed to move to Anchorage, Alaska. I had just finished my junior year in high school. What an adventure we were about to undertake. The ‘60s had just begun and Alaska was still a wild and wooly environment. We lived through the assassination of John F. Kennedy and survived the 1964 earthquake. Somewhere, along the line, I moved from childhood to semi-adulthood.
Many Christmases have come and gone but the ones I remember the most are the ones that had the fewest presents, but the greatest gifts. These were the ones that were made by my parents’ hands; the sewn clothes by my mother, the carved wooden jewelry box; paint box and the hand carved cradle that my Dad made for my first child, who was born in Anchorage, Alaska, on Dec. 16, 1964.
Parenthood brought about serious complications. Metaphorically speaking, I grew up. All of a sudden I became the caretaker and giver of Christmas to my children. After leaving Alaska I lived in Washington state and then I helped my parents move to Camp Verde. After graduating from college I moved to Arizona and by 1980 became a dedicated citizen. Times were tough, jobs were hard to find, and raising three children by myself was a challenge. However, with the help of my parents, the members of what was once the Conservative Baptist Church of Camp Verde and the help of a very good loan officer of First Interstate Bank, I managed to secure a living and home for my family. I also received the gift of painting Christmas windows to raise money for presents for my children. Thank God, my children did not ask for much (and added immeasurable joy to my life). I decorated my home much like my own mother did to bring happiness to our existence. I was blessed to find employment throughout the Verde Valley, but none so blessed as the company I have worked for over 17 years. I have also been blessed with a husband who loves me.
Where was Jesus through all these Christmases? Why, he was always right dad smack in the center of it. He was there in the nimble fingers of my grandmother, in sunny California. He was in the snowflakes of Oregon and the mother’s hands that sew the clothes. He was in Alaska, while the northern lights played on the snow packed ground, and in the hands that carved the cradle. He was in the hands that painted the Christmas windows, the hearts of people like Bob and Sue Simbric, who supplied gifts to my children. He was in the mind and heart of the employer who hired me. He is right here in the Verde Valley. He is in my holiday, light-filled and decorated home that I keep decorating after 66 years to celebrate the coming of The Lord.
It is in writing these words that the joy of Christmas fills my heart, once again. Is Christmas magical? Yes. Think of the Magi (the Three Wise Men) bringing gifts; go a step beyond and think of Majestic, then call to mind His Majesty. If Christmas is for children, then we are certainly the children everyone keeps talking about, because we must be the children of God.
Sharon L. Doran is a resident of Camp Verde.