To the Editor:
Snow was gently falling. The air was calm. A snow-white blanket covered the fields and pastures surrounding the old farmhouse.
We arrived in the 1931 Oldsmobile after a 150-mile trip from New York City. The doors flung open. Brother Pauly and I sprang out and flew into the arms of Grandpa and Grandma, standing on the front porch. The Christmas holiday had just begun in South Berne.
It was three days to Christmas and preparations had begun. The weather forecast promised cold but bright sunny days through Christmas.
Grandpa picked out a Christmas tree a few days earlier. Now it was time to harvest it. He harnessed Topsie and Billy to the farm sled. Grandma made sure he attached the jingle bells to the team’s harness.
He lifted Pauly and me into the sled while Mom and Dad climbed into the back of the sled. We hung onto the buckboard behind the team and off we glided down the snow-packed road. The horses pranced to the tune of the jingle bells. We all sang as chips of snow flew off the horses’ cleats, hitting the backboard.
We stopped at the entrance to the woodlot. Grandpa handed me the reins, got off the sled, and opened the gate. We traveled across the open fields to the edge of the woodlot where a group of evergreens were growing.
We jumped and sank into a blanket of sugar-like snow that crunched beneath our feet. Grandpa took his ax and headed for a beautiful hemlock sapling, our Tannenbaum.
Grandpa grabbed his ax and with a few well-aimed strokes, the tree fell and was loaded into the bed of the sled. Grandma was waiting for us at the house with a treat of hot chocolate and cookies.
The day before Christmas, the bare tree was standing in the big parlor that was opened only for holidays. We gathered around it and covered it with tinsel and ornaments.
Why didn’t Dad and Mom string colorful lights on the tree like we did at home before we left for the farm? Why did Pauly and I have to go to bed after supper?
We wanted to wait up for Santa just like the older folks were doing. As we lay in our beds in the upstairs bedroom, we could hear all the commotion down in the parlor.
We must have dozed off because there was Dad shaking us to get up. Santa was on his way.
We flew down the stairs and into the parlor. There was the Christmas tree sparkling with the light of a hundred candles along with all the tinsel and ornaments. Presents surrounded the base of the tree.
All the elders were there, including Uncle Henry and Aunt Johanna. Where was Uncle John?
Santa came charging in with a bag full of presents yelling, “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!” And, “How are you little boys? Have you been good? I’ve got a present for each of you.”
He handed me a little toy truck and gave Pauly a little car. They were cast iron, unbreakable.
Something just didn’t look right about this Santa. He kept hiking up his stomach and his whiskers had hooks on each side that hung on his ears.
At 9 years of age, I was onto the wonderful deception but we all wanted to keep 4-year-old Pauly from knowing as long as possible. No use.
He looked at Santa and blurted out, “You’re no Sandy Claus; you are a big hunk of baloney.” He cuddled his present and rushed out of the room crying.
There’s a time to fess-up to the truth. Mom went after him and, in a few minutes, she returned with him. He was settled down.
Uncle John removed his whiskers. We ran to him as he threw his arms around us with a big hug and a kiss. He gave us the old line of how he was Santa’s helper.
I said, “Yeah-yeah, Uncle John, it’s OK.”
After an exchange of presents, Grandpa grabbed the candle snuffer. While he carefully snuffed out the flames, we all sang “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.” Softly we repeated it, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
Editor’s note: Marjorie Giebitz, the wife of Bob Giebitz, 89, writes, “Crossville is on the Cumberland Plateau, which is an extension of the Allegheny Plateau that starts at Thacher Park and extends to Birmingham, Ala. It’s a front/cliff like the one in Thacher Park. (Only it’s warmer).”