CHILDREN THEN AND NOW IN THIS SEASON
Christmas was a great deal simpler, in my childhood;
There were not many presents and most
were much needed clothing
Like socks and underwear.
I remember being thrilled one year
With days-of-the-week panties in
I was beyond ecstatic the year
My brother Jim gave me
Five – count them FIVE – brand new
Nancy Drew mysteries.
We children went downtown by ourselves
And bought gifts for our parents,
Grandparents, and siblings.
How we accomplished this feat
Remains a mystery to me, when you consider
we received no allowances and what money
we could save was generally
obtained from cashing in pop bottles (2 cents
each) Or running errands for neighbors.
You also needed bus fare to go to and from
Downtown Cincinnati –
And we would find little handkerchiefs
For our mother
Or a man’s handkerchief
For our father,
Hairnets or bobby pins
Were the least expensive gifts
We could find at the 5&10 cent stores.
My mother saved all old gift wrap
So we ironed it, and the ribbons as well,
It remains a mystery
How we manage to shop for everyone;
It was something like the loaves and fishes
Out of the bible.
We eagerly anticipated Christmas
And being old enough to attend
Church services were an everyday part of
our lives and going to Catholic schools meant
attending mass Every day.
In the 8th grade, I missed singing at mass on
one Saturday due to illness – and it cost me
being the one to crown the statue of Mary
At the May procession in the Virgin’s honor.
In school, in the lower grades,
I remember sometimes making presents
For our parents; I remember
A tie-rack made from the cardboard tube
From a roll of paper towels, to give to my
We made ornaments out of walnut shells
and uncooked macaroni.
We listened to Santa Claus on the radio
Coming all the way to you from the North
Pole and we could hardly wait for the first
snowfall despite it meaning we would be
trudging Through the snow, to and from
In my family, Christmas was celebrated
On Christmas Eve and back in the early days
My grandmothers and often, my godmother
(who was my father’s favorite cousin)
would also be there.
Christmas morning was a time to go to
church and sit up close to the front
Where you could admire the nativity,
large statues of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.
I loved Christmas morning mass
Where all the hymns sung were in
celebration of the birth of the Christ child.
We might have dinner that day at my
grandmother’s (if not there, then at our
house) – where, afterwards, my Uncle Al
herded together all the children
and dropped us off at the local movie theatre
giving us each a quarter
for admission, popcorn or candy.
We thought Uncle Al was rich.
At grandma’s or at our house,
The adults would clear the table
And begin to play cards.
They loved a game called Skit Skat
And another called Michigan Poker.
We didn’t care to be a part of it.
Left to sit in a movie theatre,
We could easily sit and watch
That is what Christmas was like
Children today have only to ask for
Everything their little hearts’ desire
And parents stand in long lines
To find the most popular toy or
But now it’s all electronics;
Newer and fancier cell phones
That take photographs and
Every child has some electronic game,
Expensive electronic devices that
Require expensive games to play
Where every child can play
Entirely alone and by themselves
Even when sitting in a room with
Siblings or the children of friends.
There is no need to interact
As you would with Monopoly
Or the game of Sorry.
Children have so many toys and games
That there is no place to keep them
And their rooms remain in shambles;
I remember telling my granddaughter how
much simpler it was to keep my own room
clean as there were only 4 or 5 games and
they were stored in a small cupboard above
my clothes closet.
We didn’t have a lot of clothing –
A good dress, a pair of good shoes to be worn
Only on Sundays and holidays.
Children today live in a surplus of ‘things’
And no one seems happy or satisfied.
The childhood of my children were
much simpler, also, as we had so little to
spend- But I’d buy them many small gifts
throughout the year, and we’d bake cookies
and make fudge. Something has been lost
along the way; Soon those in power will
completely eliminate Christ from Christmas
And then, will it all become just
A day to shower your children
With expensive electronic devices?
Sandra Lee Smith
Originally written December 2009
Updated November, 2018
–Sandra Lee Smith