Growing up on a small farm in Mississippi in the 50s, we heated with wood stoves. The only time the living room was heated was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day...and maybe the day we put up the tree. Seems like it was colder back then, but, of course, my Dad built the house out of green (unseasoned) wood and it crackled and popped as it dried - for years. Anyway.
The tree always went in the front window. We did string popcorn for it and used the fragile glass balls inherited from my grandmother. We always added things like the little mouse candle by tying a string around its middle. The 5 and 10 cent store where Mom worked also provided some red and silver balls. And, tinsel. Some years we were allowed to just throw it up and see where it landed. Other years we hung each strand piece by piece. But, in the earliest years, I remember that getting the strands of tinsel apart was almost impossible; so small globs were the rule of the day.
My brother and I were sent to bed at a reasonable time on Christmas Eve - usually some time after 10 pm because Mom had to work until 9 pm. Since we did not have a mantle, our stockings were pinned to the back of the sofa, and Santa arrived during the night to fill the stockings and lay out our unwrapped Santa gifts. Sometimes, we could hear noises in the living room after we went to bed, but we never got up, never peeked - especially after we realized that Mom was Santa and that she had to work until 9 pm, drive out into the country where we lived, feed us second supper and then put out all the gifts. After David and I were much older, Mom made us stay in the kitchen while she put out gifts; then we could have them. We all slept late on Christmas mornings then.
Of course, finding where she had hidden the gifts was a real challenge. She usually left the larger gifts at the store, hidden in the back among all the stock. But, our stockings were not always full; sometimes Mom forgot where she had hidden our stuff. When I was 15, we moved away from the farm and, in moving, found some coloring books that had been destined for our stockings when we were much younger - also some blunt pointed scissors and a few other things. What a laugh we had!
My Mom loved fine china and silverware even though we were "dirt poor". I usually got a plastic set of dishes and plastic or aluminum silverware. My first set had fluted edges on the dishes with flowers in the middle. I don't know how many sets of silverware I got but I have remnants of at least four. Finally, when my Dad was stationed in Cuba, I got a set of real china toy dishes. They had a deep red border with flowers, and I loved them. I still have them in the original box with not a single piece broken. That was the year that Mom got her Bavarian Linen tablecloth and a set of silver plate flatware...with daffodils. Getting real china took much longer for her. If I felt like ironing, we'd use that tablecloth for Christmas dinner, but the embroidery on it is so detailed that we had to hire someone to iron it when I got married.
My Uncle Lester and his wife Aunt Clyde loved me dearly. Aunt Clyde sewed beautifully, and she made a lot of my clothes. But, Uncle Lester was a farmer. He learned something of the carpentry trade the year I was six, and he made me a wooden stove. Each detail was carefully painted on and the door opened to reveal a wooden rack inside the oven. That year I got aluminum pots and pans with the baking pans being actually usable...still have at least one of those, too. Uncle Lester was kind and gentle hearted. He also made one for Mother's step-niece.
Aunt Edith also cared about me - I was the only granddaughter in the family. She gave me silk pajamas and then - one year she gave me a large jewelry box - black with two small and one large drawer and a top that opened with a mirror. It was not a gift for a child, but I loved it. And, I suspect that it's in one of those tubs in the garage marked "MM childhood junk". I used that jewelry box for years and years - well into my 50s.
One year, David got a horse for christmas. The horse arrived early in the Fall and David had learned to ride passably well enough for both of us to ride the horse. After Christmas one year, we rode down to Grandma Woods' house so that I could show her my new tea set. I didn't repack the tea set well, and it rattled loudly on the way home. The horse was spooked; David was a relatively new rider, and the horse dumped us. Mom was so frightened that she sold the horse. I cried and cried and apologized to David for making him lose his horse.
me with David's guitar
David wanted a guitar, and his first one was from Sears - a big ole thing with clef note holes. Later, after he learned to play well, Mom went to Memphis to the pawn shops on Beale Street and bought him the sweetest little Martin guitar. I've forgotten who went with her, but he was so pleased with it...and such a great sound. He and his two buddies, Jimmie and Jack, played for hours on our front porch or in the kitchen in winter. The only songs I remember from their practice was "Maybelline" and "Thunder Road", but they tried all the country/western songs. And, they played at Jimmie's pentecostal church on Sunday nights; so I learned a lot of good gospel songs.