The train of days slowly chugged along toward my favorite holiday…Christmas. Along the track ‘Santa anticipation’ grew inside my seven-year-old head. November’s snowy Thanksgiving meal inched toward a candy-sweetened Saint Nicholas day. Even if there hadn’t been a calendar in our house, my internal clock told me that the time was drawing closer and closer.
December’s schedule of pre holiday stops included special days; cookie frosting day, the arrival of Aunt Tressie’s box, our shopping trip to Marshfield, gift making at school, and present wrapping. Listening to “Letters to Santa” on the local radio station every night before supper was like a vigil light that guided me toward Christmas. An unexpected snow day off from school heightened my impatience.
Finally the day came when all there was left before Christmas was house cleaning and tree trimming. I knew cleaning day had arrived one morning when I came down from my upstairs bedroom for breakfast. Mom was all business, whisking dishes off the table even before I was finished eating.
By noon there wasn’t a place in our house not swept, scrubbed, or dusted. The house was tore apart, rearranged, and put together again. I skittered around to keep from getting in the way. No one asked for my help, because they considered me too young. That was just fine with me.
After a quick noontime meal, my big sisters took the rugs from the hallway and snapped them free of dust in the back yard’s cold December air. Then they helped Mom carry every piece of furniture out of the living room. I sat on the pile of winter-chilled rugs and watched.
Mom took charge of the floor wax. Getting down on her knees, she carefully massaged the white cream onto the surface of our living room’s gray linoleum floor. Not a corner or doorway was missed. The polish had a clean, happy Christmasy scent.
Blue shadows in our snow-drifted yard grew longer, and then as more time passed, they became dusky. I watched the sun slowly slide westward across the sky toward Wagner’s woods; its nightly bed of trees. When my belly rumbled, I called out to ask, “Mom, when are you going to be done? I’m hungry!” The room was like a great, spotless, empty vault. It made my voice echo.
Mom slowly stood up. She looked tired. There were dark red circles on her knees from kneeling so long. Carefully pulling the maroon and silver living room drapes shut to block out the darkening winter dusk, she said, “I’ll get supper together now. Pretty soon Daddy will be in looking for something to eat, too.”
The wax on the living room floor was dry by the time our evening meal was over. It had become a thin white film. Mom took a cloth and firmly rubbed off a small patch. The area became powdery, and the linoleum beneath sparkled like glass. Straightening up she said, “You kids can buff the living room floor for me while I clean the supper dishes. Kathy can help.” We stared at her in amazement. That sounded like an awful lot of work!
Pulling soft flannel rags out from her cleaning box, Mom said, “Tie these onto your feet. Then run around in the living room and slide. The more you slide, the slipperier the floor will get.” Comprehension sparkled into our eyes.
For the next half-hour I ran, slid, and called out to hear my voice echo. My sisters and I moved so fast that we were a blur. Two small wall lamps lit the big empty room with a dusky pink light. The silver brocade on the heavy window curtains shimmered softly. We raced back and forth, up and down the room.
When I tumbled into bed that night, I was tired. There was a smile on my face as I drifted off to sleep. Buffing the floor for Mom had been fun. But the one thing that REALLY made me happy was that with today over, I was now one day closer to Christmas.