The Christmas when I was 10, I climbed out of bed and peered out the window.

There was a great white blanket of snow that covered the ground and canopied rooftops. The pine trees were so weighed down that their wide limbs seemed to point to the ground.

We lived on a country dirt road where the faint sound of traffic could be heard from the distant highway, and not a person could be seen outside on this glorious day. It had snowed all night with the icy winds whistling through the trees.

This was a time when snowfall was measured in feet rather than inches and, on occasion, the neighbors’ horses were the only sure means of transportation. But on this day, the morning sunshine brought warmth and calmness to the air. The only trails in the snow were from those of deer that had scampered by during the night.

My two brothers and I had hardly slept a wink, or so it seemed. In our excitement, we raced down the stairs scarcely noticing the chill in the house, the result of the coal furnace going out during the early morning hours. My heart was pounding fiercely in my chest in anticipation of what Santa brought this year. Would it be a doll, a game, clothes or a particular present I had requested several months prior to Christmas?

Times were tough and although we always had plenty of food on the table and clothing to wear, expensive and multiple gifts were things we dared not ask for. But this Christmas, as we ran into the living room, I couldn’t believe my eyes.


Standing in front of the tree, all in a row, were three shiny new bicycles.

I can still remember the reflection of the twinkling tree lights dancing on those brilliantly painted bikes. I later learned that my father had scrapped an old, but good-running, truck for parts and sold them for extra cash so that he could afford these “luxury gifts” this Christmas.

One of the finest parts of the day was going to Grandma’s house for a luscious turkey dinner and exchanging gifts. My brothers and I got all dressed up and waited patiently for Dad to finish shoveling the driveway so that we could be on our way.

Grandma lived in a big house in the city located on a narrow brick side street at the east end of town. Her home was 10 miles from ours, and Dad had to drive slowly because of the slippery roads. I sat in the back seat of our car wedged between my brothers and wondered if the journey was ever going to end.

Upon arrival we kissed the relatives hello, then we children were off to play games and sing until dinner time. I could smell the rich aroma of the turkey cooking throughout the cozy house, and I could hear everyone in the kitchen hurrying about for hours, preparing this holiday feast.

As I gazed across the long dining table, I thought about how lovely and delicious-looking everything was. There was plenty of savory turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes with rich gravy, sweet potatoes and yams, cranberries, assorted jello salads in bright, pretty colors and, for dessert, pumpkin pie with fluffy whipped cream. Every morsel was mouth-watering!


After dinner, everyone gathered in the living room and sang Christmas carols as my uncle accompanied us on the harmonica.

Smiles of joy, peace and contentment showed on every face.

While we were singing, I stared at Grandma’s little tree all decorated with silver tinsel and the old-fashioned bubble lights each shining a different color. I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautifully wrapped presents underneath that glowed from the shimmering lights. And I watched Grandma’s radiant face and thought how happy and proud she must be to have her whole family together on this day. It was the first Christmas in years where not a family member was missing.

After the singing, Grandma passed out each gift one by one so that everyone could see what each person got. There was hugging and kissing and many thanks echoed through the air.

It was such a beautiful day, and as we were leaving the city that evening, I stared out the car window at all the houses so beautifully decorated and tried to pick out the loveliest one.

So much has changed throughout the years. Our country dirt road is now paved and lined with houses. People are so much more in a hurry. You can still see a horse-drawn buggy, but only if you take a ride to nearby Amish country. It is said that nothing ever stays the same, and that change is good.

Grandma has been gone for many years now. My mother has grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But in spite of life changes, they all look forward to spending Christmas Day with Grandma as much as I did.

(Susan Caltrider lives in Pulaski.)

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