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Monday, December 19, 2011
The Christmas of the little red sewing machine
Although I did not realize it at the time, the Christmas of the little red sewing machine was one of great struggle for my parents. My mother was grieving the loss of her father earlier that year, and the loss of a baby to miscarriage that September. The company for which my father worked had closed down, so for a time my dad was left without a job. Although these things happened, my brother and I were unaware of the true state of affairs.
My parents were always good savers, so they used the money set aside to take care of our family until Dad found another job. Although my parents didn't use a lot of money for Christmas that year, they made sure we had a memorable one. My mom usually makes several traditional Irish Christmas puddings each year, but that year Mom made only one, and it was much smaller than usual. Dad brought home a smaller Christmas tree, and we decorated it with just a few of the decorations we always used, such as the little feathered birds that I loved to clip on the ends of the tree branches.
The real change took place starting on Christmas Eve. Before that night, on Christmas Eve, we had always been allowed to choose a single present to open just before we went to bed, but instead of a present, for each of us there was a new pair of soft flannel pajamas on our pillow, and new slippers on the floor next to our beds. I remember being excited about the appearance of the pajamas and slippers because we had never done this before. After we dressed in our new pajamas, we said our prayers, and Mom tucked us into bed.
In the morning there were no presents under the tree, instead there was to be a "Present Hunt". We searched around the house as Mom and Dad gave us clues to lead us to a present, telling us whether we were getting "warmer" or "colder", as we searched for the gifts. I remember the sounds of a lot of laughter and silliness during the search.
Two presents were given to me on that Christmas day. One present was a little box of lace handkerchiefs, embroidered in bright red and green, the other was my little red sewing machine. There was no pretty paper around them, no ribbons or bows to untie, just these small special gifts as they were. I still remember exactly where I found the sewing machine. It was tucked behind the tall white door which led into our living room. I was so excited when I found it that I held it in the air and danced around with it. It's funny the things you remember about such times. If I close my eyes now I can exactly recollect the bright red colour and the coolness of the metal of that little machine, as though it was right here in front of me. I remember the delicate sheerness of those handkerchiefs, as I draped one over my hand; they seemed so fragile that I was afraid to damage them.
My mom prefers not to think about that Christmas; it is difficult for her to recollect the struggles of that year, and the fear of uncertainty, and associate it with any feelings of happiness. For me, good memories of that Christmas remain, because the greatest gifts I received on that day were the feelings of joy, comfort and security that my parents imparted to us. Those feelings were better than any gift money can buy. Even though my brother and I were quite young, somehow we understood how much it meant to our parents for us to be happy on that day, and we were, we truly were.
©Copyright J.Geraghty-Gorman 2011.