Every year I drive down Stodgin Holler and find it hard to believe how small was the little house that contained so many memories. There is no longer a house there, just a cleared area and an electric pole. Ironic that in the 1930s and 1940s Grandpa couldn't get electric to the little house because an adjoining property owner was convinced to put in electric, with electric poles, would draw lightning.
It really wasn't that important to our family because almost no one had electricity or inside plumbing. The house was big enough then, big enough to house the crowd that Christmas eve. The year was 1942 and times were hard everywhere. We lived just west of Anderson, east of the Buffalo River, we rode "Patsy," our pretty mare, to PG (Pleasant Grove) to pick up the mail.
Times may have been hard but at the age of 5 those things didn't concern me. What did concern me was that my cousins, my aunts, and uncles had joined us in our little country home to celebrate Christmas Eve. The house was warm, the tree — no electric lights of course — was decorated with homemade chains and stars, and dinner was over. It wasn't my imagination that jingle bells could be heard coming from the cold and crisp out of doors.
There was no doubt in my mind when I was told it must be Santa and we were about to be in trouble! If Santa came and the children were not in bed he would ride right on by and not stop. It took very little persuading of my younger brothers Harold and Bill and cousins of various ages to usher us in to a bedroom — hiding in the clothes closet and trying hard to be very, very still. We heard the "Ho Ho Ho" and the shuffle of boots on the rugless floors and no picture could have been more convincing than what our ears heard on that special night. We pictured, in our minds, the great big man in the red costume, leaving his reindeer with his sleigh, down for the one night a year, hustling about as he chose personal gifts for each of us. Even the youngest in the crowd tried not to breathe as we listened and pictured what was occurring in the little front room. Soon his departure could be imagined as boots scraped the floor, jingle bells returned and the door was opened and closed.
I haven't any idea today what gifts we opened. I do know no one was disappointed. Probably hard candies, maybe a peppermint cane, an orange, home-made clothing. I do know that the effort made on the part of these young McDonald Countians in the early '40s to bring Christmas to their children was well worth the effort. I know because even 70-plus years later I have no doubt that Santa came to our house that night. Standing as a monument, the electric pole where there once was a barn, a home, a family.
Page 2 of 2 - As we approach this very special season, it is my hope that all will be making memories that last, not necessarily of monetary value, not expensive, but rather a special time of giving and laughter, a time of thoughtful moments, to share and enjoy.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.