Catching Santa

One Christmas Eve night, when I was five years old, and my brother was eight, we woke up in the middle of the night and decided to sneak downstairs to see what Santa left us.

I remember walking very quietly down the stairs to be sure not to wake our parents up.

My brother peeked around the corner first and looked back at me with huge eyes. He excitedly whispered to me, “Tracy, Santa is here!” I peeked around the corner and in the middle of the family room I saw two giant bags over flowing with toys! My brother and I were so amazed and excited! I remember feeling like my heart swelled knowing that Santa was in our house! We took off back up to our rooms as quietly as possible because we didn’t want to disturb Santa who was downstairs filling our stockings and leaving us presents. We sat in my room for what seemed like hours listening and trying to hear Santa and his reindeer jingling away from our rooftop. We figured Santa must have just left really quietly, but we didn’t dare go back downstairs in case he was still there. Eventually we fell asleep and when we woke up in the morning we ran downstairs!

To our surprise we found two giant beanbags with toys sitting on top of them that Santa left for us! We were very excited and overjoyed by our new toys and beanbags. Of course, we later bragged to all of our friends how we caught Santa in our house.

As I grew older I came to realize that we didn’t really catch Santa in our house. We simply caught sight of the beanbags with toys on top that were left for us! They sure looked like Santa’s bags! But, I will always remember the excitement, joy and sense of amazement my brother and I felt that night when we “caught” Santa in our house!

Tracy Taylor

Pie Anyone?

In the early 1990s Thanksgiving dinner was planned at the Casey home in Yankton. I had asked my mother-in-law “Dolly” from Laurel, Nebraska, to bring a couple of pies.

On Thanksgiving morning we awoke to sleet and icy roads. I went ahead preparing the turkey and fixings. Husband Don left to take care of a service call in town. Before returning home, he was thinking, Mom isn’t going to come on these roads; I’ll go to the bakery and buy a pumpkin pie.

I’m working in the kitchen thinking, Grandma Dolly isn’t going to get here so I pulled a pumpkin pie from the freezer.

Daughter-in-law Kelley (Yankton) is home preparing sweet potatoes for our meal and thinking, Grandma’s not going to travel on these roads; I’ll make a pumpkin pie.

The family is about to sit down to eat when who walks in?

Grandma Dolly with two pumpkin pies! That was the Thanksgiving we had more pie than turkey!!

Corrine Casey´╗┐

The Red Christmas Dress

Every year as the Christmas season approaches I am flooded with memories of Christmas’ past. A collage of my childhood and those of my own children come into sharp focus as I go over the memories one by one.

I am now keenly aware of the once mysterious ways that Mothers fulfill Christmas wishes, no matter what the sacrifice it takes. I am always drawn back to a special Christmas memory of my own dear Mother.

Mama raised me and two younger brothers by herself and in doing so she had to work four different menial jobs to keep us together in our small, Midwest town. She was a sales clerk by day at the local dry goods store and on Thursdays, her day off, she cashiered at the sale barn where livestock to furniture was auctioned.

I remember her wearing two pair of gloves in winters as it was so cold in the cashier booth. Every evening at six-thirty, Mama sold tickets at the local movie theater and stayed ‘til nine o’clock after the second show started and she could close the little velvet curtains at the booth. On Sundays from seven a.m. ‘til seven p.m., Mama waited tables at the “Hiway Café”. In those days the waitress set up, took orders, waited tables and washed dishes and mopped the floor. The café owner was a kind woman and when the dinner rush was over she let Mama call me to bring the boys over to eat. I was reminded to be sure the boys were cleaned up and we walked through a field down a gravel road to the main highway for Sunday supper at the café. We always hoped and prayed for a hamburger and French fries, but it was always fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Thus was the life Mama did without question for her children.

I was twelve this particular Christmas season and up ‘til now had been content with my cotton flour sack dresses and wool skirts and coats Mama reconstructed out of heavy, dark old suits and overcoats that once belonged to my Grandfather and Uncles. A few weeks before Christmas I stopped by the dry goods store to see Mama and barely inside the door my eyes caught sight of a red dress. It was fitted over a mannequin torso high above the counter where rough, grubby fingers couldn’t snag or stain the fabric. I walked back behind the counter and stood on the clerk’s little step stool so I could reach up and touch the dress. A shiver shot through me and my fingertips brushed gently over the hem. Cold crisp red taffeta with little raised black velvet flowers, ever so soft, scattered all over the full circle skirt. Little black buttons with sparkling rhinestone centers buttoned all the way from the waist to the black velvet collar. I had never seen or touched anything so beautiful. My Mama’s voice broke the spell. “Hon, what are you doing?” I turned to see Mama watching me with a wistful look that I didn’t immediately understand.

With all the hope and enthusiasm of a twelve year old I said, “Mama, oh Mama, could I please get this dress?” She smiled softly as she shook her head no. I jumped off the stool and ran to her throwing my arms around her waist and pleaded, “Maybe for Christmas-it’s all I want for Christmas!” I felt Mama’s hands gently on my shoulders and she said, “Honey, that dress is $12.98 and if I bought it for you, where would I get enough money for your brother’s gifts?” I bit my lip and nodded yes and saved my tears of disappointment for my walk home alone.

For the next couple weeks my eyes looked up at the red dress every time I went to the store and saw Mama turn from a customer to look wistfully my way. It seemed odd to me that such a beautiful dress was still in the store right up to Christmas Eve; maybe no one could afford $12.98 for a Christmas dress.

I played the church organ on Christmas Eve and Mama always insisted I rest a few hours before Midnight Mass. She called me downstairs at ten-thirty to dress by the coal stove in the kitchen and just as I got to the bottom step I heard Mama say, “There is a package under the tree for you that you can open before Church.” I was puzzled as we opened gifts on Christmas Day and there were only one or two gifts at that. Under the tree was a rather large box wrapped in white tissue paper with a wide, red plaid satin ribbon that would be kept for my hair. My hands carefully worked the ribbon off the edges as I wondered how Mama ever found time to sew me something new for Christmas. I tore the tissue away and lifted the box lid to more paper neatly folded over. As I lifted that tissue my heart nearly stopped. There, folded neatly in the box, was the red taffeta dress with the rhinestone buttons sparkling like diamonds under the flickering tree light. My fingers gently caressed the soft, black velvet flowers raised up on the cold, red taffeta. I heard Mama behind me and without turning I said in a whisper, “Oh Mama, how did you ever get this beautiful dress for me?” When I looked back at Mama she was dabbing her tired, misty eyes with the hem of her worn cotton apron as she whispered, “Honey, I just managed somehow; now hurry on and get dressed for Church.”

As I walked to church that Christmas Eve and heard the rustle of the crisp taffeta under my heavy old overcoat I was bursting with joy. I twirled and skipped and sang out loud as I scuffed through the fresh snow; all the while tears spilling down my cheeks. To this day, even as I write this, tears spill down my cheeks when I think about the red dress and how Mother’s somehow manage to fulfill special Christmas wishes for their children.

Constance M. Wood (Aguirre)

Yankton, SD