Hilltown Postcards

A Yellow Toothbrush and a Box of Food for Christmas

Ah, Christmas: one holiday, so many emotions and circumstances. Happy Christmas. Sad Christmas. Rich Christmas. Poor Christmas. Stressful. Carefree. Lonely. Crowded. Weird Christmas.

I liked the ones we spend with our large family. Great food and laughs, gifts, and even one year, fireworks one daughter bought from the South where she lived.

We had a freshly cut tree with ornaments, many of them made by the kids. Why was one son’s Santa wearing gray and yellow? Because the red felt was already taken. Why did another son’s wooden Santa have a black, bandit’s mask? Just because.

We didn’t have a lot of money then, but we tried to buy thoughtful gifts we thought each child would enjoy.

On the Sunday before Christmas, the owners of the Corners Grocery would host Santa. We adults knew he was really Dave who lived in town, but for our kids who still believed, he was the real thing. 

Santa would station himself in the post office annex to greet kids and find out what they wanted. I recall one daughter asked for a yellow toothbrush. Don’t ask me why but we made sure she got one.

Christmas day was a mad dash for the kids to open their gifts and then we drove to my hometown to spend the holiday with my parents and to visit our extended family. When we lived in Ringville, the very helpful Win Donovan would visit our house to keep the fire going in the woodstove, our only source of heat, so the water pipes wouldn’t freeze.

I remember the Christmas after Hank was hurt on a job site a few months before. He fell 18 feet onto his shoulder because someone didn’t nail a board in place on the floor. He couldn’t work. The people who hired him as a subcontractor wouldn’t pay him while he was hurt.

After all those years staying home with six kids, I found a one-year teaching job. We kept things going with a starting teacher’s pay.

It was close to the holiday when we came home to find a large cardboard box on the doorstep of the house we were renting. It contained food and an envelope with $70 in cash.

We were stunned.

We asked around but no one would admit to it. This kind deed has not been forgotten.