Craftours Lifestyles Magazine December 2018 - Page 12

A Personal Christmas Story by Jim West “Tending the Home Fires” Our hardworking parents always did their best to provide memorable holidays for their family of seven. Weeks before Christmas, my father pulled double and even triple shifts at the cement mill to make sure there would be presents under the tree. Coated in ashes and soot he’d drag into the house each night, bone-weary from cleaning out smokestacks. Besides one full-time job as the city clerk and another mothering us, Mom did all the things necessary back in the 1960’s to make our budget stretch: sewing clothes into the wee hours of the morning, mending hand-me-downs, packing school lunches and laundering cloth diapers. Even so, my parents emphasized the memory- making moments: designing elaborate macaroni ornaments to decorate the tree, hanging dozens of cheery greeting cards from loved ones around our bedroom door frames, and singing carols as we hauled aging boxes of decorations from the basement to the living room. In mid-December, Mom gathered her baking sheets, her huge wooden rolling pin and her kids to spend an entire day in the cramped kitchen baking and decorating sugar cookies. And she always delegated one duty to me. Because our scant living room had no fireplace to hang stockings, we used a cardboard-kit substitute. It was my job to assemble it each year, that special place where Santa would soon leave his presents for us. Against one wall, I unfolded the fireplace in front. Then I placed and balanced the black cardboard mantle that bore wounds from dozens of punctures where we’d thumb- tacked our stockings during holidays past. After I inserted a red light bulb into the hole near the metal spinner, I plugged in the cord