Santa's gifts and my Christmas wishes didn't always match

Dad could be stubborn about spending money that he didn’t have. That sometimes meant Christmas gifts were recycled from days gone by.

A pile of gifts in brown wrapping with green and red accents. A wood floor is beneath the gifts and greenery is to the left.
Christmas gifts were a small part of Christmas on the farm.
Courtesy / Pixabay
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The sweet smell of sugar and molasses cookies filled the house as Christmas approached. Mother also had been busy writing cards to relatives and acquaintances in the perfect penmanship learned in grade school.

The mailbox, which was mounted on a one-bottom John Deere plow, was filled with cards. The cards were hung on a string that stretched across the living room. Seldom-seen relatives stopped by, and their visits stretched until nearly chore time. They left with them saying that they must come by more often.

A visit by two bachelor uncles was much anticipated in part because they brought with them a jug of Mogen David wine, which tasted nearly as sweet as sugar cookies. Mother seldom if ever drank alcohol, but Dad said the wine warmed the body’s insides on cold days when the north wind chilled you to the bone.

I had asked and expected Santa to leave a baseball glove beneath the Christmas tree. The glove that I wanted was extraordinary in that it would be an official Roger Maris, a New York Yankee and North Dakota native who hit 61 homers the season before. Mother warned that Santa tracked good and bad behavior and said that whining about carrying the scrap pail to the chickens and moaning about other household chores would be counted against me.

For the most part, Santa always came through, although not always in expected ways. For example, I had written to him asking for a sled and he delivered a kid’s rocking chair that was painted red with one unpainted runner. I learned much later that it had been Dad’s and in woeful shape. He restored it as best he could but ran out of barn paint.


Santa was a disappointment, but the rocker is cherished and will be passed along to my son when a child comes along. The glove also appeared beneath the tree, but it wasn’t the one I expected.

It was used and worse, a glove that might or might not have been from the 1920s. A cruel joke had been played on me. I learned later Dad had balked at paying for an expensive glove and a friend just happened to have one available for 25 cents.

Dad could be stubborn about spending money that he didn’t have and in other ways. When Oleo margarine was introduced, he said the product would never appear in the house because it competed with real butter. Dairy interests had legislative power in those days, and a law passed to prevent manufacturers from dyeing the product yellow in retail stores. Consumers were provided a packet of yellow dye to make the Oleo more visually appealing.

At that time health experts said that Oleo was healthier than butter, an opinion held until recently, when some experts say butter may be better. Dad would be pleased that he is proven right.

We are ready for Christmas. The artificial tree purchased at a garage sale is surrounded by presents. Four inches of snow that fell overnight clings to the evergreens; birds dig through it to find food beneath its cover; and squirrels seek walnuts buried in the garden.

The bank teller smiles while a deposit is made.

“This snow has gotten me in the Christmas mood,” I said to her.

“We should have that spirit every day,’’ she said in reply.


Wise words indeed.

The great gifts of faith, hope and charity are too easily hidden beneath worry, fear and hate. This may be the greatest Christmas of them all because Mom and Dad as well as all the rest will be kept alive in our house.

Christmas cookies will once again emerge from the oven, people long gone will crowd around the table to feast on duck, geese and all the trimmings. The aroma of suet pudding, made once or twice a year, will linger.

Have a merry Christmas and thank you so much for allowing me to enter your home.

Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.

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