I have always loved Christmas and this one has had a special meaning to me. It was the Christmas of 1941. This was not a good year for our country, my town of Bingham Canyon or for my family.
To begin I will have to back up a little to Christmas of 1940.
I was always told that Santa visited the homes on Christmas Eve, if all the children were in bed and a sleep by 11 p.m. I was 9 at this time and I made up my mind to fake being asleep so I could see for myself.
Shortly before midnight I heard talking in the living room so I quietly tip toed down the hall and looked around the corner and there stood Santa talking to my mother and father. He was very impressive with his white beard, red suit, contagious smile and laughter. Now I knew there really was a Santa.
In April of 1941 my paternal grandmother passed away was buried on a Wednesday. My father, who was killed in a mining accident known as the Apex Mine in Highland Boy above Bingham, was buried on the next Wednesday. Little did we know that my brother, who was serving with the U.S. Navy and was home on leave at this time, would be involved with World War II that was declared on Dec. 7, 1941.
The war affected our little town in so many ways as it did with the whole world.
During my growing up years there was this store on Main Street in upper Bingham called “James 5 and 10 Cent Store” that’s a novelty nowadays. I always told Mr. James that I wanted to work in his store when I grew up.
I was walking around in the store one day after losing my father and looked up on a shelf and saw the most beautiful stuffed cat that looked just like the kitty cat, Fluffy, that my father had given me a couple of years before he passed away.
My friend Fluffy had also gone to heaven that same year. So when I saw this stuffed animal, I just knew with all my heart that I wanted this cuddly look a like. I asked Mr. James how much it was and he said, “well, let’s see, it is $1.95.”
I then asked if he would save it for me until I could earn enough money to buy it. He agreed and I was a happy little girl. But how was I going to earn the money?
I did earn $1.65.
That’s another story.
Things were going along pretty well as the months passed by and as it got closer to Christmas I noticed my mother was even more unhappy than she had been. I didn’t really realize much about grieving. I knew I missed my father very, very much, but with my mother it was different. She was crying a lot more and did not talk a lot. I thought maybe I was making her even more sad.
One day I thought I would buy her something special for Christmas. I went to my favorite store and as I was looking around I saw some aprons. My mother always wore an apron and it was something I thought she really needed.
I asked Mr. James how much they were and he said, ”How much do you have?" I said, “$1.65” (this was the money I had saved up to buy my stuffed cat).
He said, “let’s see, it says the apron‘s are $1.60.”
So I picked one out and he even wrapped for me. Even now I think they cost more than $1.60.
Christmas was just a few days away and I had already made up my mind to stay awake to see if Santa would come to my house again this year. I really did not know if he would because my dad was not here.
But sure enough I heard some voices, and from my room I tip toed down the hall and peaked around the corner and there was Santa talking to my mother just like last year. As I watched I saw Santa put a large package under the tree, wish my mother a Happy Christmas under the circumstances, and say good night. I quietly slipped back to my room and tried very hard to go back to sleep.
The next thing I knew was my mother saying to me, “wake up sleepy head, it’s Christmas.”
There was no hesitating to jump out of bed and headed for the living room running to see if the package I saw Santa put under the tree was for me. There were a few other presents under the tree, but not too many because Christmas just was not the same that year.
I found the mysterious gift and asked my mother if it was for me. She shook her head, yes. I could not open it quick enough and when I finally got it opened there inside was my stuffed kitty cat. I cried and screamed with happiness. I knew Santa had delivered it to me.
But how did he know?
When I had seen Santa at the store all I said when he asked what I wanted him to bring me: “Nothing, I just want my mother to be happy.”
As for the apron I gave my mom, she was happy to have a new one and wore it until it was faded and worn out. It was some a few years after that I realized Santa has helpers, and on that particular Christmas his name was Mr. James.
If anyone tried to talk me out of believing in Santa I would stand my ground. After all I had seen him twice on Christmas Eve in my very own home putting presents under the tree.
And so Christmas is coming again with all its color and joy. Its magic and wonder, its spirit of goodwill and warmth. But how do we really come to Christmas? What it means to us depends on what we bring to it, not only in gifts and outer display, but in the inner offerings of love and faith that abide in the heart.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company