Episode #5- The Impress of Love By Jack Elliott
As a child, what Was Your Favorite Christmas Memory? A memory that you never want to forget? Here is mine.
Christmas 1956 or 1957 was the first Christmas that I remember. My mother, brother, and I, were living in my grandparent’s duplex on Meridian Street. My brother, still not old enough to drive, walked down to the Fire Station where they were selling Christmas trees. He bought one and dragged it the five blocks back to our house. Needless to say, by the time he made it home, one side of the tree was bare of needles. Thus, a new tradition began that year. The tradition of placing the Christmas tree in a corner, rather than in front of the window.
Later that evening, I remember watching the Wizard of Oz on TV, as my mother and brother decorated the tree. I knew something special was happening. More importantly, I remember being worried about how Santa would get into our house. what was going to happen when Santa arrived. After all, we had no fireplace and no chimney for Santa to come down! My brother assured me that Santa knew what to do in such cases. “He has a special key to the front door!”
Earlier that December…
Mother had taken me to see Santa at a downtown dress shop known as “Joe’s Dress Shop.” I remember sitting in Santa’s lap, telling him about my desire for a new tricycle when I noticed that I could see “behind” his beard. Then, I recognized Santa’s voice. I blurted out; “Hey, you’re not Santa! You’re my mother’s friend from work!” Realizing something was amiss, I went on: “You’re Whitey Howard!” Santa, (Whitey Howard) whispered for me to keep his secret. He told me he was helping Santa out because he was busy still making toys at the North Pole. He also said that if I kept the secret, he’d be sure to tell Santa about the tricycle. I was satisfied; his secret was safe with me.
My brother woke me on Christmas morning and lifted me up to carry me downstairs to see the magic of our little Christmas morning. As we reached the bottom of the stairs, he covered my eyes and quickly carried me into the bathroom, before I could see the tree! He was afraid the excitement would be too much, and an accidental pajama soaking might manifest. After I finished in the bathroom, he then led me out to the living room. It was indeed magical. The tree sparkled with colored lights that were mirrored in the streaming tinsel. There was a tricycle with a big red bow just as Santa (Whitey) had promised. Also, a toy Texaco gas truck large enough for me to ride on was tucked under the tree. A Roy Roger’s holster and a simulated pearl handled toy gun stood out amongst other toys like my new toy tractor and plastic farm animals. I was in absolute joy. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that there were no gifts for my mother under that tree, and the only gift my brother received that morning was a new bathrobe (red and black checked flannel) that matched the one mother had made for me as well.
Later that day, my brother and I would go to our Aunt Grace’s house for Christmas dinner. Our dad and his new wife Margaret would be there along with grandma and grandpa Elliott. Our cousins, Sue, Ruth and Sonny and their dad (Uncle Louie) would be there too. At four years of age, I didn’t understand why our mother didn’t go too. “I have sewing to do!” would be her answer when I would ask. Years later, I realized she spent the day alone, so that my brother and I could be with our dad’s family.
That night, after we returned home from my aunt’s house, my brother did, what he often did. He took a blanket from my bed and laid it over the heat register to get it warm and toasty. Then he’d wrap me up tight and snug in my warm blanket and carry me up to bed. Once lovingly tucked in by my big brother, I fell fast asleep knowing, on some level; a level that I was not yet mature enough to put words to, that the love that had been bestowed upon me by my mother and my brother, was the greatest gift I would ever receive. It was the impress of love that touched my heart and soul. It was my lesson in putting others first; it was my lesson of how to give love, unconditionally.
Note: (c) 2022/2023 Rev. Jack Elliott. Photo credit: Elliott Family . Link to Remember When...? on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6IikTmNJOw8mazNbDoKPCY?si=d5a1b8cc8d8941c7