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Welcome to the final installment of the series of Christmas stories from my mother in law. Merry Christmas!
Beans for Christmas Dinner
When I was a little girl, I lived with three sisters and three brothers. My mom and dad gave us a childhood filled with memories; mostly of fishing and hunting and going camping.
We had a fruit farm with three big vegetable gardens. It also included a a cow, two horses, a pig and some chickens. It was my job one summer to heard a bunch of ducks. I took it seriously, and would gather the eggs for my mom to make custard. Most of the family liked it, but I wasn’t one of them.
We were all expected to do our part to keep the farm running. In the 50’s that was a way of life to grow our own food and then harvest and preserve it. Fall would come and Dad would always get us a deer and quite often an elk. I watched he and Mother cut it up on the old kitchen table. Then I would wrap the pieces up in white butcher paper and mark them. I remember once I got bored and wrote funny sayings on the wrapper and scribbled pictures. Dad was not pleased.
My brothers did the chores and we girls helped mom with the cleaning and cooking. School started before all the canning was through, but we were still able to pick the fruit, wash bottles and help put them in the basement. Sometimes my aunts would come over and help. We always looked forward to those days. Even now as I am much older, the smell of a ripe apple sends me back to that memory.
Times were hard financially, especially during the winter months. But we always had a warm house, plenty to eat and pretty new clothes that my mom had sewn. Life was good.
But Christmas, that was spectacular! We wouldn’t get a tree until a week or so before. Dad would hang one of our stocking, one right from our drawer, on the the wall with a nail close to the tree! Mom would always get us kids riled up with her rendition of “The Night before Christmas” and how ol’ Santa would look at each name on the list and take a minute to decide if we had been good enough and then pick a present for us to put under the tree. We were spellbound. As we listened, she then would make a progressive jingling sound. “Jingle, jingle, jingle!” At that point, we would hurry off to bed to try and get some sleep.
I still don’t know how he managed, but Dad would somehow get Santa to bring us all kinds of wonderful toys and specialty foods to eat. The stockings were filled to the brim and always with an orange in the toe. When we got up the next morning, it looked like Santa had just dumped his whole bag right down in the middle of the room. Or sometimes the stuff had been put into little piles and we always knew just which one was ours. There wasn’t a bunch of happier kids anywhere.
Now that brings me to tell you about the title of this story!
This one Christmas, when I was about 10, seemed different. Oh we were pleased with what we got, but there were only a few toys and our stockings were only about half full. Of coarse we didn’t any of us say anything; we didn’t want to seem ungrateful. We were happy with the orange in the toe of our stocking; but we did question, if only in our minds, when the smell of turkey was replaced with a big pot of beans. That’s right, beans! Naturally they tasted real good, especially with Mom’s homemade bread and butter with a spread of her peach jam on top. It was just different than the Christmases we’d had before.
Years later, when I was an adult, I ran into a friend of mine at the mall. It was Christmastime again. We got to reminiscing about our childhood and the Christmases we’d spent together.
“I remember one year” she said, ” that your Dad really saved our Christmas.” She went on, “I was one of the older kids and my mom told me in confidence earlier that afternoon that there wouldn’t be any Christmas that year. Dad had been out of work and she had been sick. Imagine my surprise, when we woke up the next morning to a fantasy land of presents and a big turkey for dinner. Mama never did say anything, but I knew it was your dad who’d left it there after his visit earlier that evening.”
Of coarse I never said anything either. I was just so proud of my dad and his generosity. It was a story that took on a whole new meaning and made my memory of those beans taste a whole lot sweeter.
Cathern Davis Roberts