Holiday memory

The year was about 1938. Mamma, Daddy, and my three sisters, my brother and I lived in an old house near Carmel Valley, Calif. I was about 6 years old and the middle child.

Daddy was off working somewhere with his old Model A Ford truck with the sign on the side that read: "J.A. PFEIFFER, TEAM WORK."

We were quite poor and Daddy had to take whatever job came along and whenever he was needed.

Christmas Eve came and Daddy had not yet arrived home. It was raining hard outside and we were all gathered in the living room by the fireplace, trying to stay warm. Finally, Mamma, got her coat and boots and tied a scarf over her head and said to my eldest sister, "Come on, Billie, get your warm things on and come with me."

Out the door they went, and I watched as they disappeared into the darkness, watching their clothing blow tight against them and their heads bowed beneath the wind and rain.

Three of us younger ones, ages 8, 6 and 3, knelt with our noses pressed to the cold damp glass of the windows and waited for Mamma's and Billie's return.

After, what seemed forever, I could see them coming back down the path and Mamma was dragging something. The door flew open and there was Mamma with a little scrub oak tree. "Come on," she said, "Let's get this tree decorated. Into the corner it went and out came the old glass ornaments and the candles on little clips.

We had no electricity, so we used candles and Mamma would light them for short times when we were all in the living room together. The little scrub oak seemed quite beautiful to me, and I went to bed that night with no visions of sugar plums, but a prayer that Daddy would get home safely that night.

Christmas came and when I got up I found Daddy was home, and what a wonderful Christmas it was! What did I get for Christmas? I can't remember. The only thing that mattered was that Daddy was home, we had a Christmas tree, and Mamma prepared us a meal fit for a king. Our old home had a large, grand piano in the living there (property of the landlady) and we all gathered around that old piano and bellowed out carols as Billie played.

I miss Mamma and Daddy. Daddy went to heaven in 1994, and Mamma in 1996. I now visit Billie in an assisted-care facility in Salinas. Katie, who was 3 at the time, was a Down Syndrome child, and the teacher of love to the rest of us. She lived, a beautiful 58 years, and I miss her sweet face and loving ways. But I also hold dear the beautiful memories of some wonderful childhood memories, and especially the memory of the little oak Christmas and the happiness of my childhood.


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