Amazingly, I can vividly remember the Christmas when I was five years old. Our family of four, my dad and mother and my brother Tucker and me were living temporarily in an upstairs apartment at the Ensley Highlands home of some friends. My parents had moved back to Birmingham from South Florida. My mother missed the change of seasons and the hillsides of Alabama. She was glad it was cold at Christmas time and that we lived on a hill. Of course i was most excited to hear about Santa Claus and could not believe he would accomplish so much in just one night.
All the children were talking about him. Mother and dad told me he was coming in a sleigh. I hoped he would remember that there were two families living in the same house, the Barnhart’s downstairs and the Roses upstairs. We had one great big bedroom where we all stayed together. My brother and I slept in a nook under the gable. We also had a living room and our own kitchen. The windows in front, where there were gables, were small and too high for us to see out. But the windows on the side were full length and my brother used to shout out to people in the neighborhood. We also had a big back yard to play in with a dollhouse and a swingset.
On Christmas Eve mother read us stories about Christmas. I remember the Night Before...and reindeer on the roof. I thought it would be nice to leave some cookies out for Santa. After all, he was going to be very busy. Carefully I loaded a plate with sugar cookies and laid them on a table in the living room. I wanted to be sure he would see them.
The next morning Tucker and I rushed into the living room, anxious to see if Santa had really come. I stared in amazement at the items under the Christmas tree. But before I could examine the gifts I looked to see if Santa had found his cookies. They were still on the plate. I groaned, “Oh no, Santa didn’t eat his cookies.”
I glanced over at mother and dad just in time just to see a look they gave each other. By then I knew for sure who Santa was. Even at five years old I was greatly impressed, knowing my parents had gone to all this trouble for their children. I said out loud, “I guess Santa was too busy to take time for cookies" and saw the relief on my parents faces. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful sight. The tree was so pretty, all decorated with lights and garlands. I loved the Santa’s face light and the one of a snow-covered roof on a little yellow house. The lights were not just colored nights--they actually depicted some object.
We also strung pieces of silver icicles.
The same lights were on our tree for years and I always looked forward to seeing them. It was comforting that some things remained the same. Just for me, under the Christmas tree, Santa had left a Betsy Wetsy doll with her bottle and blanket, a wicker doll carriage on wheels, and a little electric stove you could actually cook on.
I remember Tucker got a drum and a gun and a pair of binoculars. It was most impressive to me, even as a young child. I knew things were tight because my mother and dad were always going over the expenses. I realized my parents wanted to buy a house for us in Bush Hills. I felt so special that they had gone to all that trouble and expense for Tucker and me.
It was a reassuring ego-boosting to have parents who showed their love in the spirit of the true Christmas. I have always believed in Santa, and every year he still comes to my house.