A shaft of blinding sunshine blazed through our farmhouse’s back-door window and cascaded down the basement steps. The sunlight felt warm and glowed against the shadowed area under the steps. Mom was outside hanging a load of freshly washed sheets. I loved playing in the basement when Mom was doing the laundry, but I didn’t go outside with her when it was as cold as today.
My new bike was in the basement until the weather improved and our muddy yard dried up. I loved my bike. It was half as big as the bikes my older brothers and sisters rode, and had training wheels to keep me upright. Slowly peddling around the perimeter of the basement, I rode past the clothes chute with the bedsprings under it to catch whatever was thrown down, past the furnace and oil tank, under the high windows that let in dim light, beside canning shelves filled with good things to eat, under the steps where bushel baskets of newspaper-wrapped apples were stored during the winter.
Swerving around the small, wooden-walled toilet enclosure, I stopped next to the washing machine. Mom was back in the basement putting in a new load. Noticing that my bike was between her and the stairs. She suggested, “You should park your bike next to the clothes chute so I don’t have to walk around it.” Grasping the bike’s handlebars, I walked it forward a few feet.
Mom handed me one of the penicillin pills we had bought at the pharmacy after seeing the doctor. It was huge! Seeing the expression on my face, Mom scolded, “You’ll be able to swallow it! Just don’t think about it. Put it into your mouth and take a drink of this nice orange juice I bought for you. When you swallow the pill will go down with the juice.”
At age nine, I couldn’t remember Mom ever buying orange juice. I eagerly reached for the small glass. Popping the pill into my mouth, I took a drink. The juice went down my throat, but the pill stayed on my tongue and it tasted horrible! Gagging and retching, I spit the white monster out and Mom caught it.
Refusing to take the pill was not an option. I’d overheard Mom tell Daddy that my strep throat could turn into rheumatic fever if not treated with an antibiotic.
I had barely stopped gagging and drooling when Mom filled a small dish with apple sauce and turned to me with some on a spoon, topped by the soggy pill. Half an hour later, the dish was nearly empty before the pill finally slid down my throat. Feeling shaky from all the gagging and with a belly full of juice and sauce, I wobbled into the living room to lay down on the davenport. The pill not only tasted bad but also smelled nasty.
The card rack display, strategically placed in the center of the store, ensured a high volume of customers would pass by. “Smart,” I mentally approved as I examined the vast inventory. “As people pass by, seeing the greeting cards will prompt them to buy cards for upcoming birthdays, graduations or other momentous occasions in their family.”
The greeting card industry is big business. Americans spend 6.5 billion dollars a year on cards. Seven out of ten card buyers consider greeting cards essential to them. Typical cost of each greeting card is between two dollars and ten.
I’m one of the three people out of ten who don’t feel cards are essential. I’d rather give someone a gift worth an extra ten dollars than spend it on a card. I hate greeting cards for many reasons.
My biggest complaint about them has to do with their messages. If I’m looking for a birthday card to send to my mother or father-in-law, I spend a long time scouring the available selection for messages I feel comfortable with. Many of them say things like, “Thank you for all the wonderful things you have done for me. The lessons you taught me about life will live on through your grandchildren.” Gack! They didn’t raise me, so I don’t want a card like that.
A lighted garland crowned the archway between the kitchen and living room where a festive balsam tree glittered and twinkled. My husband Arnie and son-in-law Mike sat on the couch next to the tree watching a football game on television. My daughter Niki and I sat at the table in the kitchen. Arnie held six-month-old Jon in his arms while Anne, my two-year-old granddaughter, ran between the two rooms playing with her toys.
A tea kettle on the stove began to whistle. Niki jumped to her feet. Placing a steaming mug of hot water and a tea bag in front of me, she sat down with a cup of her own and commented, “I love the holiday traditions I grew up with, but I would like to have some new traditions that I are my own.”
Taking a bite of Christmas cookie and a very small sip of the hot tea, I questioned, “What sort of new traditions are you thinking of?”
Pushing a library book towards me, Niki launched into a list of ideas, concluding with, “This book had so many good ideas that it was hard to pick which one I wanted to start for my family. The top one on my list is to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas.”
Cupping my hands around the delightfully warm mug I asked, “How do you plan to do that?”
My daughter had obviously formed a game plan. She detailed, “I want to buy 12 very small gifts for each of the children. Then, every night between Christmas Eve and the Epiphany, they will have a package to open.”