Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: Christmas Joy

Christmas 1955

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1950-something, I came down with a steadily worsening sore throat. As the day progressed, this conspired with other circumstances to change our long planned holiday and give me the only seriously ill Christmas I ever experienced.
The weather was cold and crisp and a generous covering of snow had been on the ground for a while. Sue, Liz and I played outside at sleds and snow forts most of the morning. Our mothers had plenty to do and were happy to have us out of our respective houses. By the time we called it quits our cheeks were cherry red, our snow pants icily wet and our wool mittens, caked in mini snowballs, were not only heavy but wet. Our shoes, inside red-rubber boots, had eaten our socks and there were chapped places on our legs where rubber met skin. The misery of winter won the final winter game that day and we all headed to our Blevins St. homes.
My slightly sore throat, not worth mentioning when I wanted to play, had escalated to a decidedly inflamed, painful to swallow, situation. I was cold and wet and I wanted to be out of all the cold and wet winter clothes. I needed to stand over the heat register in the kitchen and eat soup for lunch. I was sure that chicken noodle soup would save the day and my throat. There could be no sore throat or sniffles. We had plans.
We were going to the farm to spend Christmas Eve and morning with the Ward grandparents and my uncle and aunt. This was a departure from the norm, and much anticipated. We usually kept Christmas Eve with our Berry family in Marion. This holiday at the farm was to be an Old Fashioned one, in Mom’s tradition. Plans had been made since Thanksgiving.
When Dad closed the Sinclair, and it would be early on Christmas Eve, we would climb into the packed Buick and head for the Ward Farm, just south of Beal City. Mom spent several days getting things ready, making lists and checking twice. Grandma was likewise busy some 50 miles south. Everyone was excited about this Christmas visit ‘down home’.
But I felt awful and didn’t want to admit it. Having what just might be a record-setting high temperature, a throat that felt like fire with each breath and pain in my ears when I swallowed, could surely put an end to the plan. Maybe I could pretend I felt good. Little did I know that this was just one in a series of events that would change our plan. This shouldn’t be happening, but it was.
I stopped in at Grandma Berry’s house on my way up Blevins. One look at me, a feel of my forehead and a peek at my throat and she was on the telephone to Mom. Apparently I looked as miserable as I felt.
“This child is burning up and her throat is raw.” She had ratted me out.
You couldn’t fool Grandma, an old pro with sick kids. The flag was dropped. Christmas, as I anticipated it, was not to be. I went home to the heat register, a nest on the couch and a visit from Dr. Youngman and his little black bag.
While I was out sledding and sickening, Mom had her own troubles at home. The large Frigidaire chest-type freezer in our kitchen had developed an illness of its own. It too, was ailing and running a fever in a freezer kind of way. Herman Dennis, the local Frigidaire and Zenith dealer and appliance doctor, made a house call. He hooked up gauges, checked connections and took the patient’s temperature. Yup, it was sick all right, warm in all the wrong places. His diagnosis; the patient was in need of a good dose of Freon gas to return to health. The cure was not swift; the injection of gas must be slow, perhaps overnight. Mr. Dennis hooked up the intravenous gas and went back to his store, wishing Mom a Merry Christmas on his way out the door.
Several days earlier, a package arrived from far off family, and as a consolation, I was allowed to open it. It held new flannel pajamas, dotted with pink cats and blue dogs frolicking on a white ground. They were soft and comfy and in my feverish state they were alternately too warm or not warm enough. Our freezer took almost 24 hours to recover, including several visits from Herman Dennis, whose care it returned to its proper degree of healthy cold.
We did not go to the Ward Farm for Christmas, an unavoidable disappointment for all. I was able to attend the Berry Christmas, although I do not remember much of it. We visited the farm on my birthday, a few days later.
I thought of that particular Christmas just last week. We tested positive at our house and I was feeling, shall we say, poorly for a while. For a brief time I lamented the prospects of Christmas plans going awry. Vaccinations and boosters work and we are thankfully back on our feet, plans intact. Too bad that Mom Nature didn’t read our plan book.
The photo this week is this one of the unbridled Christmas joy being shared among me, my cousins and our beloved Uncle Bernie. Sandy and I are hanging on to new Red Riding Hood dolls, and we are all sitting in Frank’s new coaster wagon. All these years later, I can still feel the joy.
We wish you much Christmas Joy and Peace from the Pines.

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