December 1933 – Adam’s First Christmas

Listen to the short audio clip: Adam’s childhood Christmas Tree

Adam could smell onions on his mom’s hands as she leaned down and fastened the top button of his coat under his chin.

The dirt floor and thick mud walls of the little kitchen held the chill of the winter air. They’d had a quick fire to warm their breakfast, but the dwindling pile of firewood on the porch together with the remaining sacks of husks and corn stalk roots they’d gathered in the fall had to last through the winter, and the stove wouldn’t be stoked again until it was time to cook dinner. His dad was out shoveling snow for anyone who would pay. The best days were when someone paid with wood or a few lumps of coal.

Adam reached up impatiently and pushed at his woolen hat, which kept slipping down over his eyebrows. With a thumb sticking out of a hole in his mitten, he scratched at his itchy forehead. The hat and mittens were hand-me-downs from his cousin Uchie. His mom said he’d grow into them.

“Yes, Mama, I promise,” said Adam. A few days ago, Adam and his friend Joe had stood in front of the display until one of the neighbors saw them and brought them home. Joe had cried when his fingers and nose warmed up enough to ache. Shoving his hat up again, Adam looked towards the door. Joe would be waiting outside. 

“Okay, go.” Anna smiled gently and stood up.

Flashing his mom a smile in return, Adam flew out the door into the sparkling winter air and leapt from the porch, landing solidly in the fresh powder in front of Joe. His friend’s face lit up like it always did when he saw Adam.

Hurriedly, they trekked towards the train tracks, bundled in their winter layers. Across the tracks, Adam grabbed Joe’s hand and led him toward the main street. Turning left, they stopped to wait as a horse-drawn wagon rolled past, the rattle of the wheels muffled in the snow. A few minutes later, they stood motionless, gazing up through the store window.

“Look at the star, Adam,” breathed Joe, his eyes as big as saucers.

Adam looked at the big sparkly star hanging in the pretend sky over the manager, then to the left and the right. Jesus’ mom and dad were there with their donkey and the baby lying in the hay. The family’s sheep were lying around them in the hay too. The best part was the three rich guys with their fancy dresses and shiny crowns full of jewels.

Every time someone opened the front door of the store, the big star blew gently in the breeze. St. Nicholas stood over at one side with a sack over his shoulder. His coat and pants were better looking than what the real St. Nicholas had been wearing when Adam saw him at the church the other day. His real coat didn’t have those nice buttons down the front, and his beard was a lot shorter in real life. Adam liked the one in the window better, with his big smile and shiny boots.

Listen to the short audio clip: Adam’s childhood Christmas Tree