A toppled Christmas tree

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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There were three of us growing up on the farm, two boys and a girl, and Christmas was a special time for all three, but for none more so than Betty. She hasn’t been with us now for nearly 30 years, but her fun-loving spirit seems especially close this time of year.

The three of us, naturally, had very different Christmas wishes. Philip was older than we and so his wants reflected his age. Betty and I were closer to the same age, but she was a girl and, naturally, girls want girly things and boys want anything but.

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More than 60 years later, however, I am now comfortable admitting that, during our very early years, I enjoyed playing with her toys as well as my own. That usually didn’t last long but, especially on Christmas morning, each of us had to play with everything under the tree, regardless of ownership.

There was, for example, the year that she got what back then would pass as a wardrobe for a doll, complete with tiny coat hangers. I don’t remember much about it except that we thought it would be fun to hang the tiny coat hangers and clothes on the Christmas tree. And fun it was — until we turned the tree over. The big cedar crashed into the middle of the living room, fragile glass ornaments were smashed, tinsel flew and water from the stand wet the best rug in the house.

Our mother had reason to be thoroughly upset with us, but she was a farm wife and had a way of seeing things in their proper perspective. A failed crop or a deadly virus in the hog herd were reasons to be upset, a damaged Christmas tree not so much. We helped stand the tree back up, rearranged the tinsel, throw out the broken ornaments and Christmas continued with hardly a hiccup.

Thinking back, all three of us were probably involved in that caper, and it was most likely one or both of us boys who came up with the idea.

Some of Betty’s toys were actually a lot more dangerous than most of mine ever were. Oh, all three of us got fireworks in our stockings, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking about Sears Roebuck toys under the tree.

One year, Betty got a “toy” clothes iron and ironing board. But that iron was no toy. When you plugged it into a wall socket, it got hot — very hot. Then, there was a stove that preceded Easy Bake. It had real coils and an oven that ran on real household current.

Both were fun to play with, and both “toys” could have burned the house down.

I did have an Erector Set (didn’t every boy?) and it had an electric motor with gears designed to grab careless little fingers, but that was about as dangerous as it got.

And the fireworks? Well, they were pretty commonplace in the country back in the 1950s. Not long after that, they were banned in Virginia — first, the big firecrackers, then then Roman candles, and eventually, most everything else that was any fun. But during our childhood, Santa never forgot to leave something in our stockings that would go bang on Christmas night.

Those years are now in the distant past and three of Betty’s grandchildren are prime Santa age, with another soon to be there. I sincerely hope they find each Christmas season to be as magical as their grandmother and her brothers did so many years ago.