My parents and brother and I always spent Thanksgiving at the farm on Whirlwind Hill with my mother’s side of the family. But on Christmas and Easter we celebrated with my dad’s parents – H. A. (Gus) and Charlotte Crump.
After opening presents on Christmas morning and briefly visiting my grandparents at the farm, we drove into town to have a big mid-day dinner and spend the afternoon at the white house on Cedar Street. I dressed up in my best clothes and brought my new toys to show to my cousin Sue. Sue was a year older than I, and I have never known life without her. We’ve always been “best buds.” Aside from the time I accused her of harmonizing on “Taps” at our Girl Scout meeting (a long story), our friendship has been without strife.
Our parents – my mother Janet, and Sue’s mother Charlotte Collins (my dad’s sister) – must have coordinated the presents we got, because it seemed we almost always received the same dolls, clothes, and toys. Even at our very first Christmas together you can see how much I admired my older cousin.
My aunt sewed many of her family’s clothes, and sometimes she made Sue and me our Christmas outfits. In this photo Sue and her doll wear matching dresses made by Charlotte.
By the mid-1950’s Sue and I had little brothers, and Sue had a baby sister. And Charlotte was still sewing. For Christmas 1954 she made the poodle skirts we’re wearing in this photo taken with our great-grandmother, Charlotte Sophia Barton. (Yes, my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my aunt were all named Charlotte, which was very confusing.) She probably made our neckwear also. I loved that skirt and the big scratchy crinoline that I wore with it. I think the skirt was made of felt.
My Grandma Crump fixed the same meal for us on Christmas, Easter, and other holidays – ham and potatoes. It was always ham. She would not touch chicken after growing up next to a chicken farm, so she ate copious amounts of ham. My brother sometimes speculates that all that cured meat contributed to her long life. She died just two weeks short of her 108th birthday.
Our favorite tradition on those Christmas afternoons was the “Christmas Pie.” I think it started out as the “Christmas Chimney” as you can see in this photo, but over the years it became a pie. Grandma Crump wrapped little presents from the hardware store or W. T. Grant’s (a five and dime store) and tied strings to them with our names at the end. The strings came up through a piece of paper covering the top of the chimney or pie, and we had to cut the paper to get them out. This was her version of a “grab bag,” and the presents in it were always our favorites. We looked forward to this ritual all day. Maybe it was the communal aspect of the opening, or the silliness of some of the gifts, but whatever it was, we loved it, and carried on the tradition at our own Christmas gatherings for years afterwards.
On Wednesday: Janet’s Christmas