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An old-fashioned Christmas
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Granny never asked for much for Christmas.

Usually, her requests were simple - loop-a-word puzzles, new bedroom slippers, or a new pack of sewing needles.

"Those aren't real gifts," I would tell her.

"Well, they are what I need," was her response.

"Christmas shouldn't be about what you need," I said. "It should be about getting something you want. Surely there's something you want?"

The old gal looked at me hard and then shook her head. "No, there ain't. I learnt a long time ago not to let my wants hurt me."

It took me a long time to understand what she meant by that statement.

For a child, Christmas was supposed to be about circling everything in the Sears Wish Book and believing I'd get it.

I didn't understand this asking for what you needed-if that was the case, I would have got stuff like socks and toilet paper, which I did when I was older and my uncle thought it was hilarious to wrap 24 rolls of Charmin.

Given the price of toilet paper, I am a little bit disappointed he stopped gifting that.

For years, we got Granny the things she asked for, the question still in the back of my mind as to why she never asked for something she wanted.

"Isn't there something you want this year?" I asked gently.

She shook her head.

"I'd like to get you something you want though," I pressed.

She looked up from her sewing.

"I've told you, I don't want anything. I need new bedroom slippers and maybe this year some new dish towels for the kitchen. Don't get any of them fancy ones; I like practical, not pretty."

"Why don't you ever just say what you want?"

She sighed, a deep, weary sigh.

"It don't do no good to ask for what I want, I ain't never got it."

"Maybe if you asked...."

"What makes you think I didn't ask before?"

And with that, she ended the conversation, moving from the couch to the kitchen to start dinner.

What could she have possibly wanted that she didn't get?

I pondered this question as we approached another Christmas.

But this one was different.

My grandfather was battling Alzheimer's and I wanted to somehow make her holiday special.
I knew if I asked her what she wanted, she would say for him to be well and have his memory again, to remember her. And that was something she would tell me it wouldn't do any good to ask for.

She had tried to keep up her holiday traditions but it was a struggle; my grandfather loved Christmas and most of what she had always done was for him.

A lot of her Christmas joy was gone.

"Let's get some of the old-fashioned candy like we used to," I suggested one day.

She looked up at me, her face wet with silent tears.

"What for?"

"Because you used to get it for Pop, and it doesn't seem like Christmas without it."

She thought about this for a moment before she agreed.

Later that evening, we put out bags and bags of gummy orange slices, crème-drops, and soft peppermint sticks in bowls and baskets throughout the house.

Granny also bought a huge basket of fruit, and began putting oranges, apples and pecans in her handmade Christmas stockings.

"You know, when I was growing up, all we got was fruit in our stocking at Christmas," she said quietly as she held an orange before sliding it in the red velvet fabric.

"I asked for a teddy bear - just a teddy bear of my own. Not one I had to share, not one my sisters had before, just a teddy bear for me, and I didn't get it. I got an orange instead. I told Mama I couldn't cuddle an orange. She told me I couldn't eat a teddy bear. It was the only thing I ever asked for."

A teddy bear.

Had that been too much to ask for? Maybe back then, in a still recovering post-Depression era with a dozen kids to take care of it had been a lot. I thought of all the teddy bears she had bought me over the years and all the times she made it a point to get me what I asked for, even if she fussed and told me she wasn't made of money.

On Christmas Eve, I slipped a teddy bear down in her stocking, leaving just its soft crocheted hat peeking from the top.

"What in the world?" Granny exclaimed, picking up her stocking the next morning.

She sat down in her chair and pulled the bear out, examining it closely, running her fingers over its fur before holding it to her face to breathe it in.

She didn't say a word.

Tears ran down her face as she held it, finally, getting what she had asked for so many years before.

Granny slept with that bear for many years after that Christmas, saying it gave her comfort while Pop was sick.

The one thing she needed the most, more than slippers or dish towels, and this time, she didn't have to ask.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."

 

 

 

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