Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Helen (My Lovely Parents)

One day till Thanksgiving and the first hints of the holiday season are everywhere - strangers on sidewalks are nicer, grocery stores are smelling like cinnamon, and last week Helen read us a Santa story... You know what I think about Helen's stories. I soak them right up. Always. But this one - like the hot cocoa I just made and finished in, uh, four gulps... I know, not ladylike at all - is especially irresistible. For me, there is nothing more comforting than hearing someone older than me talk about her very early childhood. I mean, to hear Helen talk about the painstaking effort that her parents went through to make Santa possible is really to hear a child's testament of how much she still loves (yes, of course, present tense, and permanently present tense - loves) her parents. And to get this close to feeling the idea of permanence is, to me, pretty comforting.

Eat lots this weekend (can you tell I will?) and Happy Thanksgiving!
My parents were born in North Carolina in the same country town. The little girl, who was to become the mother of my sister and I, was the daughter of the area minister of three small churches. My father was the son of a farmer. So they always, always knew each other.

When they were eighteen and fifteen years of age, they married. Later, they came nother to Philadelphia. In the ensuing years my sister and I were born. We were a closely knit family. My Dad always called Irene and I “his girls”. He never went to work without coming into out bedroom doorway to check on us.

When Christmas came around, it was really a time of fun and expectations. We really believed that there was a Santa Claus, and that he came down the chimney.

Mother began to cook the goodies several weeks ahead of the holidays. I can remember Mother having us help to pick the meat out of the walnut shells – which she had cracked with a nutcracker. Mother was to use the walnuts in a walnut cake. Usually she also baked a coconut cake and a chocolate layer cake. Sweet potato, lemon meringue and pumpkin pies were also added to the goodies. Oh, yes, I almost forgot to add butter cookies. Needless to say, our home was full of delicious aromas.

My father would pretend that he was sneaking into the kitchen or dining room to snitch some of the cookies. Of course, my sister Irene and I were on the receiving end of some of them. You might know that my Mother was well aware of what was going on – pretending that she didn’t.

Christmas Eve, we were sent to bed early. Naturally, we were very nervous. We would lie awake for quite sometime before we could go to sleep.

Christmas morning Irene and I awakened early and raced down to the stairs to the living room where the Christmas tree and our gifts were.

Our parents were smiling. Years later, when we no longer believed in Santa Claus, they told us that sometimes, they stayed up all night. They were trying to make things nice for us.

My sister and I were truly blessed to have such wonderful parents.