chelsea cookIt is hardly remarkable that during the entire time just before, all throughout and just after Christmas, most people talk of their childhood memories. Even me. I can remember a few Christmases but I do remember the feeling of anticipation and longing that preceded Christmas. Back in my kidhood there was a small thing happening called World War Two which took up a great deal of everyone’s attention. Also, the union workers at the glass plant, where my dad worked, had made an agreement to not ask for raises for the duration of the war. We were a patriotic country and a very patriotic small town. The company, however, was not so much. But that is another story.
The main thing I remember about Christmas Day is the weather. Most Christmas Days were warm enough for kids to play outside and  show each other the treasures they ha received. There were cap guns and other materials showing interest in the war. There were, a very few times, kids who had received a bicycle or something else magnificently big like that. Hardly anyone, or maybe no one, came out showing packages of socks or underwear they had received.
If pushed hard enough some would admit getting shirts of other wearing apparel we didn’t talk about. Oh, coats! Yes, since in Oklahoma winter usually doesn’t start until about Christmas, or a little after, a new coat for Christmas was just about expected if one had grown any at all. For those boys with a big brother of girls with a big sister, wellsir, they hardly ever got a NEW coat but, as the dad of the family would say, “it is new to you.”  Rumor has it that didn’t help the younger sibling very much.
But we would meet at the vacant lot adjoining the church, or the one across the street, and play softball as most years someone got a new ball glove and it had be tried out, tested and/or broken in. Now that wasn’t considered “showing off,” oh, except maybe for the ones who didn’t get a glove this year or last year or the year before that. Sometimes, and i am calling no names you understand, those people thought the glove recipients were showing off when they continued to pound their fists into the pocket of the glove and yell softball things.
Many of us were in the low income category, and were also on the “naughty” list, so we got a bag of rocks, maybe even a bag of dirt. The lucky ones got a tin can with their bag of dirt so they could spend the day making mud pies. They were the envy of the less fortunate. Some of the big brothers kicked their little brothers really hard and told them it was to toughen them up for the next year. That didn’t work out very well because even if the little brother grew some the bigger brother did too. Then the next year he would kick harder.
The men at the glass factory always smiled and said it was good the boys were getting along and getting tougher. There must have been many former big brothers working out there. But Christmas did lose a little luster when you got you old, partially wrecked bicycle that had been painted a cream color, almost exactly the color of the shed down by the garden. Some of the paint had evidently dripped during a hurried painting session and spotted the pedals. "Look at that," it was said, "you have a two toned bike. I'll bet it is really fast." It wasn't.
There were very few fights during the Christmas season when we were out of school.  I would attribute the good behavior to the lack of pressure, during the holidays, of the constant studying and striving to be a better student. Several of the sixth grade class could already read and some fifth graders knew the alphabet. Most, if not all, the male students knew when fishing season opened and the older students were very aware of the first day of hunting season. Fortunately for the rest of our town’s civilized population, almost none of our peers received an actual fire arm for Christmas. The people on the other side of town considered this their Christmas miracle.
Many times one would see a child, mostly boys, with a different shirt on that he had gotten for Christmas. The rowdy kids would tease him by shouting, “Christmas clothes, Christmas clothes” never caring that these clothes originally started with his biggest brother four years before. But not all kids were mean, actually, very few were mean. Some kids were nice enough to help a younger boy break in his new ball glove by keeping it for several weeks. When the webbing finally gave up and came apart the older boy would return the glove as fully broken in. Almost every time they instructed their mentored boy that he really should fix that webbing and not be so careless. Helpful things like that was a hallmark of growing up in our neighborhood.