As a little girl, a Christmas arrived when it occurred to me that the Giving of Gifts might be as fun as Receiving of Gifts.
I wasn’t getting a lot of gifts anyway, due to farming parents who struggled to survive in a prolonged, severe drought. But I could make everyone happy! This would be an amazing Christmas! I could lift everyone’s spirits with just the right gift for each!
Dad smoked, and big brother Dave would soon, if he wasn’t already sneaking a smoke behind the barn where everyone inhaled and coughed out their first lungful of smoke. Putting to use an idea I had just learned, I surreptitiously gathered tin can lids from the kitchen trash, being careful to keep fingers away from sharp edges, and stashed them in my dresser drawer beneath my jeans. When no one was around, I carried them out to the back yard along with Dad’s ball peen hammer and pliers. I hammered the lids with the ball, forming artistic dents. I crimped lid edges upward with the pliers, creating a sophisticated fluted look. Tah-dah! Ashtrays! I’d gotten a bit carried away and made more than necessary, so I put the extra ones in my playhouse in case a useful purpose came to mind.
My eldest sister Jane’s gift was easy. She loved pretty jewelry. Our monthly Jack and Jill magazine had featured how to make jewelry by linking paperclips together. One silver paperclip necklace and bracelet later and Jane was good to go.
Middle sister Ann’s gift was yet to be determined. Then one day I watched her fuss because she couldn’t find the right size box for a collection of small rocks. Ah-Hah!
“Mom, is your Dr. Scholl’s corn pad box almost empty? Can I have it to use?”
“I suppose so. What for?”
“Shhh…it’s for a Christmas gift.”
I was the youngest of four kids, so by this time Mom wasn’t surprised by much. “Okay.”
Ann’s gift was secured.
What about Mom? I stewed on this up until a few days before Christmas when I noticed she began sneezing. Mom had a cold. Mom needed lots and lots of tissues. That evening when she went out to milk the cows, I carefully pulled out a handful of tissues from the kitchen Kleenex box. Mom’s gift was secured.
Now all I had to do was wrap these thoughtful gifts up and put them under our tree, which consisted of several large branches cut off the bottom of one of our Junipers, stuck together in a wet bucket of sand and bedecked with antique ornaments found in dusty attic chests and multiple years of paper cup bells and other cherished decor fondly created by four kids.
During my next naptime, a daily event required for Mom’s sanity, I sneaked into the upstairs hall closet to rummage through the carefully saved and folded wrapping paper accumulated from previous Christmases. I wrapped the presents as best I could. I couldn’t wait!
Christmas Eve was so exciting. I whispered to Mom that I needed to stay up late to put presents under the tree, she nodded, and ran interference in case anyone happened to drop by the living room.
That Christmas morning is engraved deeply in memory. Funny, I have no memory of the presents I received.
My gifts were a hit! Almost. Dad immediately lit a cigarette so he could use his ashtray. Dave placed his up on the dresser for pocket junk. Jane wore her jewelry. And Mom loved her Kleenex, making a show to pull them out of her pocket to use as she prepared dinner.
Ann’s gift didn’t go over so well.
“Mom!!!” She wailed, and as the middle child who necessarily had to assert herself frequently, she was good at it. “Eleanor gave me an EMPTY CORN PAD BOX!”
It was difficult for me to see the problem. Ann had complained only a few weeks ago because she didn’t have just such a box. It was a pretty bright yellow. I pretty much wanted Mom’s next empty corn pad box for my own use. Why was Ann so upset?
“She gave Jane jewelry! And I got an empty box!”
I did apologize to her years later when I had a more adult perspesctive on things and the subject came up over a glass (or more) of Dad’s homemade wine. We agreed that she had evened the score several times with her own antics. I think she may have scored higher than me, but I’ll let that one go.
After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
– Ellie Hadsall
“Take life into your own hands and make it happen. It’s your life; Lead it!”
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