I Remember… (Part Three)

Ann Swanson

This period involves the early years of my marriage. We lived in a trailer for the first five years. People used to tell me it was cozy, but I thought it was crowded. Before we moved out we had two children. I bought some old day beds that my husband made new side rails for and we put the two children into the biggest bedroom. Crib size mattresses fit them perfectly.

The Christmas tree was put up on a box. It had to be small because we did not have much room. We tied it to secure it so that it did not topple over. We kept our gifts to a minimum because we did not have room for a whole lot of toys.

I remember getting the children the Fisher-Price barn and house one year. They had so much fun with those toys. The best part was that all of the pieces packed up inside of the barn and house. I still have the barn here so I can take it out if a small child comes to visit.

I also remember giving the children Johnny West and Jayne West along with their horses. They were also popular toys. I found a couple of small suitcases to use as storage for these.

While I was still in the trailer I bought yards and yards of flannel at Penney’s at the mall. I found a small remnant to make pajamas for our son. Another piece became a nightie for our daughter. I also made a nightie for my niece and pajamas for her brothers. My mom got a robe as did my mother-in-law. I planned all of my sewing projects to be done during the children’s naps.

We did not have much money so I sewed what I could even using leftover clothing to create gifts. I recall making our daughter a pants suit out of a dress that used to belong to our neighbor. It turned out really cute, too.

I made my husband and son matching plaid vests to be worn to church and on dressy occasions.

Since our tree was out in the open I painted some wooden ornaments to use. That way I knew none of my fragile ones would get broken. I painted every afternoon for a while when the children took their naps. I used those wooden ornaments again up here when we had a cat that climbed the Christmas tree.

Our first year at Hickory Heights was a difficult one. We were still renovating it. In fact, we finished the dining room floor just before we went out Christmas shopping. By the next day, it was ready for our tree and for the dining room set. My mother and I washed all of the furniture to get ready for dinner. My grandparents came over for the children’s church program. After the program, we came here for dinner. I was cooking on a wood stove at that point. My ham was cooked and keeping warm. I made potato salad so the potatoes would be ready. That became a tradition. Now every year we have potato salad.

One Christmas I had my whole family over for Christmas. We did not have it on Christmas day but closer to New Year’s. It was fun to finally be able to entertain. My cousin’s little girl was just a baby. There are pictures of people taking turns holding her.

Christmas was at Grandma Swanson’s house. We opened gifts after we ate. I remember the children being so excited that they hardly ate anything. After the gifts, the men took off to do the evening chores. They came back after chores for pie.

One year we were at my sister-in-law’s. By then the children were allowed to sit at the adult table. When the gelatin dessert was passed the plate jiggled and the rest of the salad landed on my son’s plate. He got teased a lot about that.

One year the children received bikes for Christmas. I found some second-hand ones that still had a lot of mileage on them. Dick brought them up after chores that evening. It is a wonder that the children did not see them. It was kind of like we hid things right under their noses.

One Christmas in the later years my oven was broken. I took my cookie cutters and supplies down to my daughter’s apartment. We made about four different batches of cookies.

During the college years, there were times when the children did not make it home. They celebrated wherever they were. If they made it home later we celebrated then. It was tough on mom and dad during those years. We went with the in-laws, but it just was not the same.

I started to make my own candy. I made fudge as well as caramel candy with pecans. I found that recipe in an Amish cookbook that I borrowed from the bookmobile. Does anyone remember that?

We have a record album that used to belong to my in-laws. It was by Walter Brennan. I remember there was a song about the family not coming home. I always cried when I heard that song. Even though the children and grandchildren are close-by that song really gets to me.

I also like a song by Dolly Parton about “Hard Candy Christmas”. We always had hard candy as part of our Christmas. Grandma used to get a tin of candy called “Plantation Dainties”. Some of them were filled while others were simply plain. There were some fish that I especially liked. I have one of the tins as a sewing box. Several years I made hard tack. Our favorite flavor was cinnamon so I made a couple batches of that. My neighbor used to give us hard tack for Christmas and everyone loved it.

After college, each of the children moved home. They were ready to start their families and they wanted to be in this area. Let me say here that each of them paid a price as far as earning power, but it was worth it to them. It was so nice to finally have them home again.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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