Everything about this simple act of tree-cutting took me back to my childhood. Uncle John Henry made good money as the county recorder, so my cousins Kathryn and Jennie Melle had expensive dolls. One year, Aunt Ella let "Santa" bring me a lovely doll that her girls had outgrown."Baby" had a newborn face and movable eyes with real lashes. Her short blonde hair was glued into tiny holes in her china head, and her eyes closed at naptime. I loved Baby dearly. Although dolls in 1919 didn’t walk, cry, wet their pants or speak any words, Mom thought Baby must have cost at least $5!
Another one of Kathryn’s and Jenny Melle’s dolls, given for another Christmas, was "Billy." He wore real blue denim overalls with wire fasteners to hook over metal buttons just like Dad’s and mine. Billy also wore a light blue shirt like Dad’s. His eyes didn’t move, and his black curly hair was painted on, but Billy was my favorite. His head was made of papier-mâché, and his cloth skin was as brown as our playmates’, George and Maudie Williams. They lived on the farm that joined ours and would come play when their parents, Henry and Annie, helped us with the dairy or housework. I’m sure that’s why I loved Billy the best.
I must have seen at least one Christmas parade, but I have no recollection of it. I don’t recall ever seeing a living, moving Santa Claus, and there are no pictures of my brother and me on Santa’s lap. Nevertheless, Santa got the credit for gifts that mysteriously appeared in our living room while we ate supper each Christmas Eve. The reason Santa came early was that Dad had to milk the dairy cows twice a day. He and the men fed, milked, cooled and bottled the milk before breakfast every day - even on Christmas Day! Cows don’t understand about Santa.
Our Santa came during late supper on Christmas Eve, after the milking and chores were done. Mom would say, "Listen!" and we would all get quiet. Then Dad would say, "Finish your food, I think Santa’s been here."
About the end of school when I was 6, our home was destroyed by fire. We lost everything. I grieved when we found Baby’s eyeless china head in the ashes. Nothing was left of Billy except the metal buttons and fasteners of his overalls. After the fire, my close friend, Edna Pace, gave me one of her favorite dolls. I never forgot her great sacrifice, but I never cared a lot for dolls after losing Baby and Billy.
Years later, I bought a little pair of overalls like Billy’s at an antique shop. They hung in my den - just to help me remember.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays.