Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Long Ago: My Story

My family lived briefly in a small logging town in Utah called Panguitch. We lived in a tiny green trailer-- Mom, Dad, and four children. My new little brother Shane had just been born in November the year of that memorable Christmas. Having no washer or dryer, my mother washed out his diapers by hand and hung them outside in the icy air to dry. I remember her bringing them inside, stiff and frozen.

I was seven and in second grade when we lived in Panguitch. I walked to and from school alone down the main street in town and looked into store windows on my way. Once, around Halloween, I bought wax teeth and big red wax lips in one of those stores.

That Christmas was snowy and cold. We were having a holiday party at my school. Each child drew a name, and we had to buy that classmate a gift--limit 50 cents. I don't remember the child who received my gift or even what I brought to share. Thinking back, I know it must have been a hardship for my parents to buy one more gift during a very difficult season in their lives.

I still have two of the four gifts I received for Christmas that year. A boy in my class gave me a treasure--a picture book filled with stories and poems about Christmas. It had the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas in it, and a poem about "Jesus, our brother, kind and good." There was a story about two girls taking a penny walk at Christmas. I'd never heard of a penny walk before and wanted to try it. You flip a penny at every corner while you're walking. If heads, you turn right, if tails, you go left. Oh, how many times I read that book through the years!

I also still have a doll that was mailed to me from my grandmother in California. It was a Terry Lee doll and she could walk and turn her head. I named her Sandra. My mother later told me she had two dollars apiece to spend on each of her children that Christmas. The winter in Utah was bitter cold but girls were required to wear dresses to school no matter what the weather. My mother bought me red tights. I was thrilled to have them and remember playing hopscotch on the blacktop at school while I was wearing them. Also, Christmas morning, hanging on our small blue spruce tree, I found a tiny, stuffed dog named Topper. I think the name was inspired by a TV show I had watched.

The images in my mind of our time in Panguitch are still vivid. My mother always made Christmas special, and that year was no exception. By the next holiday, we would be living in a real house and the first Christmas there was magical. But I will hold that story for another time.

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