"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe


     SOMEONE SAID "MEMORIES ARE A PART OF CHRISTMAS". As you look back on your youth at Christmas time, what do you remember as outstanding? Your stocking caps you used to wear? Long underwear? Long black stockings? Mrs. Charlie Esterley's single seated sleigh drawn by her beautiful bay? And if you were "hooking" rides behind a delivery wagon, she would stop and have you leave your sled on the parking and you and your companion would sit beside her, tucked in with a fur robe, and away you'd go with the sleigh bells merrily ringing. She might have admonished you gently that it was pretty dangerous to be riding in back of the milk trucks and wagons. Or do you remember the new skates you got and were looking forward to skating on the river every night after school? Or how good it felt to be standing on the register in the hall when you'd come in from making "snow angels" or playing fox and geese and your feet, numb from the cold, would start to tingle as warmth began to finally flow through them.

     Perhaps you remember the Christmas Eve play at the church, or when Santa came to your house on Christmas Eve and you had to wait until the stores down town had closed (around 10 o'clock sometimes) so Father, Grandfather and Uncle could be home when the parlor door was opened to reveal the Christmas tree that revolved by the heat of dozens of candles. And you had pressed your face against the front window of the dining room and watched the lamp lighter on the corner with his long handled lighter, light the light on the parking across the street and the flames would give out its feeble, eerie light. (Those same lights can again be seen in the front drive of many a home in Lawrence today, but they burn perpetually now). When the men would finally arrive, there was much excitement. First there would be a knocking on a window and a deep, gruff, strange voice would ask if all the children had been good. You knew this was Santa's helper and that only good children received gifts. You were too excited and a tiny bit frightened to answer and your mother would vouch for you. Someone would then ring the small school bell that was only rung on this special occasion. The parlor door that had been kept closed and had been forbidden territory for several days before, now was wide open and the beautiful tree was ablaze and turning merrily around. All the children would march in single file and everybody would join hands and circle the tree, singing "Oh Tannenbaum".

     Do you remember your first really big doll? Maybe she was of beautiful bisque, with real blond hair and big blue eyes that opened and shut. Or the tiny red enamel Swiss watch to be worn

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hanging on a Fleur-de-lis pin and the card for the first time said "From Grandma and Grandpa" instead of "From Santa". Or when you were old enough to partake of the wine and Christmas cookies that always followed the opening of the packages Christmas day was spent going around the neighborhood looking at gifts of your friends, tasting the different kinds of Christmas cookies and home made candies tied to the trees. A scissors was kept handy on the mantle for that purpose.

     Do you remember?

Printed in Journal-World December 5, 1959

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