Blessed are memories of Christmas past“It’s the 1940s. It was nearly Christmas and I wanted to get my mother a present — but I had no money. I remember trudging through the long meadow perpendicular to our house, now covered with snow, as I started for Pipestone, crossing the disjointed swinging bridge before approaching a scattering of houses and the beginning of town.
By: By Agnes Kennard, Superior Telegram
“It’s the 1940s. It was nearly Christmas and I wanted to get my mother a present — but I had no money. I remember trudging through the long meadow perpendicular to our house, now covered with snow, as I started for Pipestone, crossing the disjointed swinging bridge before approaching a scattering of houses and the beginning of town. We lived on a rented farm north of town. The Pipestone Creek bordered our home on the south and swung around north and flowed into the national park and scurried over the red rocks before it dropped roaring over Winnewissa Falls and headed toward a small dam until it was swallowed up by Squaw Lake. There are many wonderful Indian stories centered about the falls and the water-filled quarry nearby — the swimming pool of my youth.
The Indian School, now gone, was northeast of the falls. Our home was located in the best of all worlds — country, river, Indian lore and Indian friends, farm families, small fishing lakes and to the south, town, all within walking distance.
Pipestone’s main street is lined with stately old stone buildings constructed in the middle 1800s. Thornton Wilder would have appreciated our ambience. It, the town, was also the source of my potential income, which I would need if I wanted to buy a Christmas gift for Mom.
I learned you could collect paper and old pop bottles and turn them into a junk business on Second Street northwest for pennies. How that knowledge came to me, I don’t know. What I do remember is walking around town, stopping at homes, knocking on doors and asking the occupants if they had old paper or empty pop bottles that they could give to me, explaining what I was going to do with this income. I did not want them to take me for a selfish kid out for the quick nickel to spend on myself.
I remember being cold, especially my toes — arms weighted down with bottles and papers, nose probably dripping. I can see clearly the front of the junk store where I took my bounty. It was ‘watch your step’ cluttered and dirty. What marvel I felt when the money was put in my hand. It had been so easy. And I wondered why everybody wasn’t out taking advantage of this glorious opportunity, including the people who had the paper and bottles in their houses in the first place.
One lady, thin and proper, wearing a bib apron, let me in her apartment; the second floor to an old house. We both wandered through her storage space looking for paper. It smelled musty and in a strange way, very dreary, that I remember. I also remember not finding any paper. Now when I think back on it I probably broke her heart, as certainly she must have wanted to help this poor little girl who obviously was desperate, trying to earn money for a gift for her mother.
Did I feel desperate or even embarrassed? Heavens — No! It was the most natural thing in the world. I needed money and a way was provided to earn it. I supposed everyone, who didn’t have money for a present, was trying hard to figure out how to get some. I was just one of the lucky ones who was.
No memory comes to mind of the treasure I bought for Mom, probably Evening in Paris cologne, nor can I recall her happy face when receiving it. Only this thin whisper of a memory that comes to me in starts and stops and pieces.
Oh, to have the awe and innocence of that child again. Do you suppose that is why God created children, or grandchildren?”
God Bless the school children of America. Bless you all and have a Merry Christmas.
Agnes Kennard lives in Wascott. She is a member of St. Croix Writers based in Solon Springs.