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The Best 12 Days of Christmas Ever

When I see the buying frenzy that goes on today at Christmas, families buying electronics, often a computer AND a TV for each child in their own room, toys galore that will be landfill in a few months, I cannot believe they are making their children happy or doing them a service.

I thought of the following recently when I was reading a novel set in the South in the early thirties, where a black housemaid walked to the town dump in the chill of night after work to try to find bits and pieces of discards she could fix up so her children would have some little thing for Christmas.

Our kids remember a particular Christmas as one of the best they ever had, and there was a lesson in it that everyone with children should take to heart.  I'm especially reminded of it in holiday seasons when the signs indicate to me that the economy isn't up to par.  Some years the muggings, petty theft, purse snatching and car theft increase dramatically in the month and a half before Christmas.  People are willing to steal in order to buy their family Christmas presents - and they are not only setting a terrible example if the kids suspect, but are giving poisoned gifts as well, not gifts of love.  This is one of those years, here in Miami and I suspect elsewhere.

Hubby was working full time and trying to finish college before his GI bill ran out.  A house across the street had been on the market for almost a year, and the economy was so poor that no one had bought it.  It had been broken into and vandalized for the third time, and I persuaded the realtor to sell it to us on a rental/purchase option with no down payment, rather than have to keep fixing it up.  Good thing, as we didn't have any down - in fact, couldn't even take possession for three weeks until our rent came due the third of the month, as hubby got paid once a month.  The realtor let us move our things in ahead of time little by little, and once we put the check in the mail, moved ourselves in.   We had no furniture and bought a few items, like mattresses and an old dinette set, at used furniture stores, and picked up a few items from trash piles.   We had debts, medical bills, school expenses, three young children....  we had to count every dime.

A year passed, and the house was now ours.   We were still scrounging for furniture.  We'd bought a few tools to make repairs.  Christmas was coming.   Enough people with kids and a bit more cash had moved into the neighborhood that expectations of a lavish and elaborate Christmas were in the air.  But we couldn't supply that for our kids on our budget.   We even hated to spend money on a Christmas tree!  And we certainly weren't going to go even further into debt buying toys and fancy clothing.

After talking it over, hubby took his week's vacation (plus two weekends), and we got to work a little less than two weeks before Christmas.  We put locks on the garage so the kids couldn't get in.  There was already a workbench there where we had stashed our tools.  I had a sewing machine.  

We made our plans ahead of time, and on Saturday as he began his vacation, we retired to "Santa's Workshop"....

1.   Our oldest daughter needed a warm coat; hers was too small.  We bought a quality woolen dark red and black coat in a fine hounds-tooth pattern at Goodwill for $3.  The cuffs and collar points were a tad worn.  I had found a piece of white rabbit's fur in a trash pile, and sewed strips of it around the collar and cuffs.  Believe me, it made a hit with her and her friends.

2.   The only thing she had specifically asked for was a doll, a Barbie type called, I think, "Hello Tammy" or some such.  We got one on sale.  I found a large rectangular straw purse with a ripped and dirty lining in the trash.  I tore out the lining, put in a new one with cloth scavenged from a trash pile of a "work at home" piecework seamstress, a cottage industry that abounded at the time.   A golden chain from an old necklace served as a "closet rod" on either side.  Lining material made a pocket at the bottom for small items.  We bought a set of "Barbie" size clothes hangers which back then were really cheap.  Then I made an truly elaborate wardrobe including silk and lacy underwear, coats and dresses, skirts and blouses, robes and gowns, with bits of cloth, fur, lace, leather.... Even matching purses and hats.  And packed in into the straw-purse wardrobe.   She was the envy of all her friends.

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