Tuesday, December 23, 2008
As the Holidays draw nearer, I can't help but remember the days of my childhood. Growing up in Iowa was wonderful through the eyes of a little girl. Our family was poor but my brother and I were fed, kept warm and loved (unconditionally by our Mother). I remember wearing hand-me-downs as I grew up. Not a bad thing, except I only had one sibling, a brother who was four years older than me. Like all little girls I idolized him, something that remains in my heart even today. He was always patient and tolerant of me even though many of the other older children of the neighborhood (mostly boys) were not. He was my protector. Although there wasn't much in the way of activities we found great adventures in our neighborhood. Our Dad had built us a swing in a tree in the front yard and summers were spent sharing it with the neighborhood. Winters were a bit more challenging. The winter storms back then seemed to be more severe than they do today. Staying warm was a full-time job. Our baths were taken in a round galvanized tub by the stove in the living room. Funny what memories remain with you as you grow older.
Christmas was not a luxory our family could afford. We knew the story of Mary and Baby Jesus and understood it was His birthday that was celebrated at Christmas. It wasn't until I started kindergarten and the other children shared their stories of their Christmas celebrations with me that I began to comprehend the meaning of being poor. I was in the first grade when my brother took matters into his own hands. He would have been 9 or 10 at the time. He insisted that there be a Christmas tree that year. I remember going into the country with him and Dad and cutting a small tree. Anyone who is not from Iowa may not appreciate the meaning of that. The evergreen trees that grow there are not like the ones in the Northwest. They are nothing but stickers! If you get near them you have these stickers attached painfully to you. No matter, Dad cut the tree and he and my brother pulled it through the snow to the car where it was loaded and taken home. That is the first Christmas we observed. I remember the gifts of a coloring book and crayons (The Cisco Kid & Poncho) and a small plastic bank shaped like the spaceship of Flash Gordon. Television was just becoming popular and these were the popular shows of the times. I'm sure our parents had a difficult time providing these gifts for us and I still love my brother for his efforts to see that his baby sister had Christmas.
I suppose in times such as our country is facing now many of us can reflect back on more difficult times. It seems to me that as long as you have family and friends you will always be rich. I grew out of poverty and have lived what is considered a prosperous life. It's still these growing up years that I recall the most vividly. I doubt that I could ever possess anything more valuable than the love (of parents and especially my brother) that saw me through those years of my growing up.