My 12-year-old grandson is gearing up for a BIG Christmas. This boy is an only child. I can so relate to this. I’m an only child. My dad was an only child. His mother was an only child. It was kind of a sacred family thing. 

When I broke the tradition and ended up “with child” the second time, it behoved my dad to sit me down and explain the facts of life to my husband and myself. So, he said, “Now that you know what causes this mess you’re in, stop it.”

He was a kidder of the first degree.

Back to my grandson — you walk into this young man’s room and all you see is wires looping and connecting to computers, a television and alien-looking devices that beep and squeal. He is all about the electronic age. 

Guess what he wants under the tree? You got it — more electronic stuff. Hope we’ve got the electric bill paid up.

My mom and dad were working parents. They put in long hours to provide the necessities for our little family. 

Back then, children made up games and used their imagination to entertain themselves. I’m not knocking the electronic literacy of today’s youth. These kids are so far ahead of children of my century it’s unreal. It was just a different time in history. We used what we had — and liked it — or told to lump it.

While my best bud got a new, shiny bike for Christmas, I got a used bike that was repainted. Shoot, it was already broken in and it could climb me some hills and jump some ditches down in the wilds around Tupelo.

I remember straddling a cut off broomstick and riding it all over the pasture pretending it was my big black horse. I could even produce a convincing neigh and paw the ground with a fair amount of skill.

I didn’t get cheap plastic do-dad toys that would come apart in two days. I got a tin spinning top that played music. There were no electronic beeping parts and batteries that cost a fortune. That thing lasted for years. Couldn’t throw it away — it kept showing back up in my toy box. I also got a hand-sewn rag doll with homemade clothes.

I did get a much loved store-bought teddy bear one Christmas. That was the bomb.

My favorite pastime was to play with my grandmother’s china tea set from her childhood (late 1800s). So, guess what was wrapped up under the cedar tree one year? 

When I was a 4-year-old, Christmas was a cedar tree cut from one of our pastures and decorated with strung cranberries and popcorn in front of a roaring fireplace.  I spent hours cutting up construction paper and making a long chain with white paste to drape around the tree. 

I remember that particular Christmas because my dad came home from the big war. He was so handsome in his World War II uniform. He had been gone since I was a little baby and didn’t quite know how to treat a grown-up young lady of four. 

He had a shiny new German coin that he promised to give me if I ran across our huge front yard barefoot in snow up to my knees three times. Mother found out after the fact and had a hissy fit- and she could pitch a doozie. Dad called them Alabama fits. That’s where she was born and raised.

I caught an awful drippy cold and sore throat from that little escapade and Dad was plunged from the perils of war to the doghouse for getting me sick. 

He survived with a grin. Alabama fits didn’t scare him much after bayonets and foxholes.

There were days on end during that frigid winter when the power was out due to frozen, broken electric lines. It might have given my mother and grandmother pains in the hiney, but it was all jolly fun for me. It was like camping out. 

Power outages back then didn’t get repaired promptly like our power services of today. I remember one time we were plunged into darkness for three weeks before repairs could be made.

We had kerosene lanterns for light and cooked in the fireplace in cast iron pots.

 Every house in the community was in the same shape. We heated water in a pan in the fireplace for baths. We were pioneers by fate and helpful neighbors by choice. We had cured ham and bacon in the smokehouse and canned vegetables in the pantry. What we had was shared with those who didn’t.

When you don’t know any better, you don’t think you are so bad off.

But this is now --and I have come to love my creature comforts.

 Dale Lilly (The Gilded Lilly) is Lifestyles Editor and can be contacted at lifestyles@desototimes.com.

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