Residents of Dunlop House Assisted Living recently reminisced about Christmas when they were children. They experienced a magic that few know about today.
Imagine growing up in a time when Christmas trees were found in the woods, chopped down and brought home Christmas Eve and only mom and dad decorated the tree. Imagine waking up on Christmas morning smelling the pine scent as you rushed down the stairs to see what Santa left. Christmas dinner included ham and all the trimmings, along with the fruitcake.
It didn’t take long for them to remember their favorite gifts either.
Henry Pleasants remembers one year he and his two brothers received one bike to share. His wife, Laura, remembers her best gift as a sweatshirt from a five-year-old named Willie who fell in love with her. I still wear it today. I would love to see little Willie,” Laura added.
Gerald Mann grew up in Ettrick. He recalls Christmas at his house as “being a madhouse.”
“Every year we got new skates with a skate key. We gave away our old ones,” said Mann.
As he got older, Mann remembered the best gift he gave. “I was able to buy my mother a fur cape. When she looked under the tree and saw it, she immediately put it on over her nightgown,” Mann fondly recalled.
Doris Sebera was the oldest of five children. “The girls received dolls from Santa and the boys got wagons,” Sebera recalled. There were no gift exchanges because there was no money. “Having family together was the gift,” Sebera said smiling.
They all remember attending church and starring in the Christmas plays.
Now imagine Christmas in Germany in the early 1930’s before WWII. There were little differences with the trees. Hildegard Demers remembers her father liked a white tree so it was decorated in all white with real candles on it.
Smiling Demers added: “We never had a fire.” Santa would come in November and talk to all the children to find out if they had been good. They would receive presents from him.
“Christmas Day was more holy then, not commercialized like today,” said Demers. They celebrated Christmas Day with goose, pork roast and potato dumplings. Instead of exchanging gifts, they bought gifts for the poor people. Her favorite gift was a large doll house built by her father. Each Christmas, she received furniture for her doll house.
Unfortunately, Demers remembered the doll house was put away after Christmas and brought out for the next year.
“I couldn’t wait so I could play with it. I still see that house in my mind,” added Demers.
In January 1945 when her town was bombed, they lost all their possessions including pictures of the doll house. Reminiscing brought back vivid memories for the residents. They remember the tree, the food, the smells of Christmas, and Christmas pageants.
Best of all, they still remember those special gifts. Santa’s elves were listening. Laura found Willie. Mann received a miniature version of Union Hardware skates with the key. As Sebera opened her package from the elves, she said, “I haven’t received one of these in a long time,” as she held her new baby doll she quickly named Amy. Demers was very surprised to receive a doll house. Although not quite the same as the one her father built, it did bring a wide smile to her face and almost a tear.
The elves didn’t forget Henry. They knew he already had received his favorite gift. When asked about his best gift ever, Henry smiled and pointed to Laura saying, “She was my best gift.”