Mama’s Christmas Memory

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Sorting through forgotten letters and old photographs, I found this little story written by my mother in about 1963. Since she gave it the title “What Does Christmas Mean to You?”, I wonder if she had written it for a local newspaper or maybe to present to her ladies prayer group.

Either way, you will want to grab a cup of hot tea and enjoy some time with my mom….

By: Jewell Burrow

“When I look back, I remember the kitchen – the old wood range being the center of attraction – with its warming closets, reservoir of hot water and the wood box sitting at the east end. Christmas was the only time of year when we kids carried plenty of wood and water without being constantly reminded.

I can almost smell Mama’s mince pies and her fruit cake baking in the oven. Maybe there was also a large grey pot of dried apricots, bubbling and letting off a delicious aroma that sorta stung your nostrils. Even the tea kettle seemed to sense the excitement and would just nearly blow its lid, getting off steam. 

The nearer December 25th came, the more like the tea kettle we kids were. Mama would have to chase us outside to let off steam. 

Sometimes at the Christmas season, Mama would allow herself the luxury of setting down to the old pump organ to play and sing. Even the boys, when they heard Mama sing, would come running in to hear. It was such a rare occasion. 

One Christmas, Mama sent me to the cellar after spiced peaches, chow chow, and pear tomato preserves. The cellar was an awesome place in many ways. With it’s dark corners and finding an occasional snake. None of us kids ever really liked to go to the cellar. Even in time of storms, I longed to be in the storm instead of the cellar. 

Then too, the cellar was the place mama kept her turkey eggs until the turkey hens decided to set. The eggs had to be carefully turned, one round each day; and the fresh laid eggs were added to the precious booty. I only now understand why Mama was so cautious about the turkey eggs. It was her only chance for actual cash all year. She usually sold the turkeys in November. 

Once when my turn came to turn the eggs, I descended cautiously into the semi-darkness and peered even more cautiously into the dark corners. As I squatted to turn the precious eggs, I thought of the hen in Jack and the Beanstalk, who laid the golden eggs. And I wondered if that hen had anything on Mama’s turkeys. 

As I started to say, Mama sent me after several jars of banned goods this particular Christmas eve. When I descended into the cellar, an aroma met me that only one word can describe: Christmas. 

I smelled oranges, apples, and something very sweet. For once, I forgot about the snakes. I also forgot what Mama sent me after. I followed my nose and there, hidden in a supposedly safe place, was all of Santa’s goodies. Though caution warned me not to touch anything, I saw two of the loveliest pencil boxes. I stood there, endlessly, then realized that Christmas wasn’t exactly what I had always thought. It was even more. 

In this box, in a dark corner of the cellar was lots of love and sacrifice. 

Christmas is still love and sacrifice. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe on Him, shall be saved” (John 3:16). 

When you get right down to it, it isn’t how much we have, but how much we love, appreciate and enjoy what we have. I’m proud to be a farm girl. We never thought we were poor.

As I count my blessings today, I want to add my voice to that of the Heavenly Host that sang on that Christmas so long ago:

“Glory to God in the Highest. Peace on earth. Good will toward men.”