Holiday Memories: A rough year yields a glorious Christmas

It was 1934. Times were hard. The Great Depression lay heavy on the land. The only things we had in abundance were family, friends and love.

I was 8 years old, but I remember the sights and sounds of that Christmas Eve like it was yesterday. That mystical hush that settles on the earth every Christmas had embraced our tiny community like a warm feather bed.

The day was spent helping Mother prepare for our annual trek to the McClure family reunion. But in my thoughts was my most secret wish - one so impossible that I couldn't even talk about it. More than anything in

the world, I wanted a BICYCLE! There had been no encouragement from my parents and, even at that tender age, I recognized their sadness at facing a bleak Christmas for their little girl.

Our tree was small, but two boxes of shimmering icicles hid any imperfection. To me it was beautiful. I loved the moments before bedtime, when only the tree lights were on, letting the wonder and expectation of Christmas fill the room.

My "shaking" present was a promise of excitement to come. The contents were always the same - a jar of cherries and a bottle of olives - all for me, but with innovative wrappings, it was always a surprise.

At dusk we went to church where, as lovely carols rang out, each child was given a present from Santa and a little paper sack, containing an apple, an orange and two pieces of sweet, sticky ribbon-rock candy. Nothing ever tasted so good!

Since we were leaving Christmas morn, I went to bed early. But I was puzzled by a lot of commotion in the living room and the front door opening and closing. Soon the bedroom door opened and Mother and Daddy sat on my bed. Mother began haltingly, "We are leaving so early tomorrow, we must have Christmas tonight. We hope you won't be disappointed to learn Daddy and I are Santa Claus."

Each took one of my hands and led me to the living room. The tree was shining, presents were underneath, but wonder of wonders, right in front was the most magnificent, shiny blue bicycle I'd ever seen. Finally I touched it and, as if by magic, the mystery of Santa's identity turned to joy - that those I loved so dearly, standing there, their eyes brimming with tears of happiness, had made this impossible dream come true.

The story was often repeated of the neighbors smiling to see my father riding my new bicycle home from the store that cold Christmas Eve. I never had the courage to ask where he got the money to buy that bicycle. I couldn't bear to know what sacrifice must have been made to give me that wonderful present.

Many Christmas Eves have passed since then, but there is always a private moment when I remember that year, 1934, and the shimmering tree, the dear faces, and that beautiful blue bicycle.


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