We hadn’t celebrated Christmas for several years. We were all sick with the flu in 1918, and Mom died just after Christmas. Great-grandpa Ben Hunsaker had died at Christmas in 1919. In 1920 and 1921 we were just
scraping by in Colorado, and we didn’t think we had anything to celebrate. Dad died just before Christmas in 1922. The year 1924 was different. Grandma started it just a few days before Christmas by saying, “I’m tired of being sad at this time of year. It’s time for us to celebrate
Grandpa said simply, “All right.” He immediately sent Earl and me out into the woods nearby to find a red cedar tree, “about as tall as you are.” So we took a two-person saw, and we looked for a tree that had a good shape and that was about my height. We found one, and sawed it off, and brought it home. I found two two-by-fours, and Grandpa’s brace and bit, and drilled a hole through the center of the boards. We cut a
couple of blocks the same width as the boards to nail to the bottom of the ends of one board. With Earl holding the tree sideways and still, I drilled a hole into the trunk of the tree. We found a seven inch spike in a bucket of old nails, and we had a tree stand to keep the tree upright. We proudly took it inside.
Grandma had popped corn and put Pearl, Mary, and little Lon in charge of stringing the popcorn. Not much of Lon’s portion made it past his mouth onto the string. They were plainly enjoying the tree-decorating. Grandma supervised the making of popcorn balls in exchange for a promise from little Lon that he would finish the strings. Then they switched to strings of dried crabapples, so the tree was finally crisscrossed with red and white garlands.
When the garlands were all on the tree, Grandma disappeared into her bedroom for a while. She returned carrying a shiny metal star with a candle holder attached to the front, and a partially burned candle in it. She gave it to Chlora to crown the treetop.
Christmas morning we got up to a big breakfast. A bowl of oranges was under the tree, and we each had one of them. There was also a bowl of hard candy, a handful apiece, Grandma said, and six small boxes. We children opened the boxes at the same time, and we each had a new pair of brown cotton gloves. It seemed quite an extravagant occasion.
Grandma asked us what we wanted to eat for Christmas dinner. What would be special? I had shot two wild rabbits a week before. Earl and Pearl suggested that we hadn’t had rabbit stew for quite a while, and it would seem special, since we had eaten that stew so many times with Dad and Bonnie. So their suggestion won against the ham or chicken or goose that the rest of us suggested. With Grandma’s supervision, the rabbit stew was filled with vegetables and potatoes and noodles, and
even small chunks of ham, and it tasted a lot better than any rabbit stew we had eaten before. We also enjoyed apple pie and pumpkin pie. “Now I can pack my bags,” Grandma said. We looked at each other and wondered what in the world she was talking about.