Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. December 2016
“Maybe Santa Claus dropped some presents behind the Christmas tree. Les see!” I was six, poking at Jerri.
We popped up off the floor and trod on white tissue paper and scissor-curled ribbons. Mom was sitting on a little stool to the right of the tree, holding three-month-old Candy. Gripping her fingers into Mom’s shoulders, Jerri worked to climb behind, shaking the shiny glass, colored balls and twinkling lights in the prickly tree. Mom hugged Candy tighter in her arms.
“Uh, no, I don’t think so.” Mom helped us back to the front of the tree with her free arm. “The little doll-bed is real special. See? It rocks.” She swayed the 18” cradle left and right. “It’s painted pretty light pink and has a decal that matches the ones Daddy put on your beds.”
We took a second look and shared turns rocking it.
“You can use it when you play with your dolls. You got some new crayons and a color book. Some panties, and socks, too. ”
I knew right then: there was no Santa Claus.
Mom had made the rocking, doll-bed. That’s why she put on her only, long overcoat and bundled up to spend much time in the detached, December-cold garage almost every day before Christmas in 1945 in San Antonio, Texas. She depended on me at six years old to entertain my three little sisters Jerri, 5, Patti, 3, and baby Candy while she was out there.
I didn’t care I figured out about Santa Claus. I knew Mom and Dad had counted pennies with the WWII situation. Even after the war, we struggled since our family had grown so quickly.
In my little chair, I studied Mom still holding Candy close to her by the Christmas tree removing a wad of curly ribbon from Patti’s mouth. Poor Mom. I knew she felt bad having to tell us the doll-bed was special. Even Daddy helped to decorate it. They worked so hard. I felt sorry for them. My sisters didn’t know our parents were Santa Claus. Patti and Candy were too little to know what was going on.
I wished I hadn’t said that maybe Santa Claus had dropped some presents behind the tree. I made Jerri and Patti think there usually were more presents. That’s why we started looking for more. Mom’s heart must’ve hurt inside.
I often imagined little Mom behind the scenes in our garage trying to shape the wood with Dad’s little hand-saw, sanding the splinters and curving the edges to protect our tiny hands, then adding shiny paint–in her long, straight, only coat and bulky gloves! Maybe next-door neighbor, old Mr. Krause, cut the curved part with his electric saw for her to finish. The garage with a dirt floor and two doors that yielded to the winds and cold was not a place for an exhausted 90-pound mother of four tiny ones.
I knew Dad soaked and slid off the decal. He was the pro at that. Everything had a decal if it made our chairs, chests of drawers, tables, or cabinets around the house look a little more big-ticket or helped perk us up. Often our parents were exhausted and had many challenges trying to be patient with us.
I cherished our priceless little rocking doll-bed and played with it often. I loved Mom for the love she gave us in those very early years. I wonder how I would have handled the situations she endured then and later.
As a mother and grandmother myself, I know a mom values and elevates the simplest gift created by her small child. She showers praises and compliments, but the tables were turned.
Today as an adult, Jerri doesn’t recall Christmas in 1945, and I know the others don’t either.