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Carol Perkins: Christmas Gatherings

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By Carol Perkins

When I was a little girl, the happiest time of the year was Christmas. The town was magical, with decorated windows and the tall Santa in the Western Auto. Boys longed for bikes displayed up front and girls hoped for dolls sitting on shelves. Santa brought all the gifts. The only other gift was from my grandmother Reece.

Everyone seemed happy at Christmas. Glasgow was our big-time shopping town, even though Edmonton had many stores. A prized gift for a man came from Jolly's Men's store. Mama sometimes bought Daddy a hat or a sweater there. MaBettie shopped at the National Store. She bought shirts for men, blouses for women, trucks for boys, and dolls for girls. Teens got sweaters. Stores wrapped presents back then.

A week before Christmas, Daddy combed the woods for the best tree, dragged it through the field, and stood it up in the yard for Mama's approval. Sometimes he had to go back for another one.

She had a cedar tree until the ones who went after it were getting older. Decorations were silver tinsel, breakable balls, bright colorful lights, and lots of icicles with a star on top.

Christmas Eve we gathered at MaBettie's. The nine children, their children, and their spouses filled the house. Men sat in the kitchen/dining area and the women in the living room until time to open gifts. Tommy played the piano and Margie and Jeanette, my aunts by marriage, lead us in carols. MaBettie made her famous rum cake (out of bourbon, but no one cared).

The next morning, we dashed to the tree to see what Santa had left. I couldn't wait to see what Daddy had bought Mama. That was always a surprise, in more ways than one. Where he shopped indicated what he bought. The time he came home with gold-pointed houseshoes was a real surprise. When I was a teen, I made suggestions.

We always had a plentiful Christmas. Daddy bought a huge box of oranges, nuts, and bananas, which sat under the tree. I made chocolate fudge that was runny or hard. Eating it with a spoon didn't bother anyone.

After breakfast and in the early afternoon, we went to Grandma's to take her a gift. She never put up a tree, but she always had a batch of peanut butter fudge. I never remember a Christmas gathering.

Then we went back to MaBettie's to see what she got for Christmas. She laid her gifts out on Papa's bed and we looked through them. Most often, she'd try to give them away. Except for her powder, she kept that. Papa usually got a year's supply of pipe tobacco. No one knew what Uncle Frank got because he took them home and unwrapped them.

Even though a hectic time as a child, I wouldn't change a thing. When we got married, we had even more places to go. One thing for sure was that Santa came wherever we lived and just the four of us enjoyed that moment as a family. That's how we wanted it. That's how traditions are born.

You can contact Carol at

This story was posted on 2022-12-14 10:32:54
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