Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Learning | The Christmas Coat

Christmas trees with presents under them! Such a happy sight!  When I was a young girl, my siblings and I used to spend an awful lot of time in December, inspecting the gifts, trying to discern their secrets.  We could tell which gifts contained clothes; they usually came in the "shirt boxes" the department stores provided for free in those days.  Sometimes we would guess after shaking the gift to see if something rattled inside.  We analyzed the "to" and "from" labels, trying to predict what one specific family member would give to another.

MCCALL HOMEMAKING COVER, XMAS TREE, from George Eastman House's photostream
 on No known copyright  restrictions.
The Great Big Mystery Gift appeared under our tree when I was in third grade. It was too heavy and bulky for us to pick up and shake. It didn't have a label on it. Nobody saw who put it there. There was no gift tag, saying who it was for, or who was giving it.  Attempts at questioning other family members about this gift got us nowhere.  We just had to wait until Christmas Day, but it felt like forever.

On Christmas morning, it was traditional for the two youngest kids (my brother and I) to play Santa's Elves, removing the presents from under the tree, reading the labels, and handing them to their intended recipient to be opened. So Dale and I did our best. All the labeled presents were opened, and The Great Big Mystery Gift was still there. I asked my mother if she knew who it was for. She shook her head,"No." She looked as mystified as I felt!

After a dramatic pause, my father stepped forward, and picked up that giant box. I was sure it was for my mother, because she obviously wasn't in on the secret. She wrapped most of the gifts, after all! 

But he didn't give it to her. He gave it to me. ME!!! Well, that was exciting. But I was even more surprised when I opened it up. There was a brand new, double-breasted, red wool winter coat in there.  

Remember, I was the youngest of six. Most of my clothing was hand-me-downs. I don't think I ever had a brand new coat before in my life--and this was such a beautiful coat.

We all peppered him with questions.  The story emerged: he had seen it in a store, and just decided it was perfect for me.  I don't know how he knew what size to buy, because my mother usually made sure our clothes fit, but he took care of it. 

I still get a tear in my eye when I recall that Christmas. I can remember how proud I felt, when I went back to school after break, wearing my red winter coat on the playground.

Imagine my delight, when I discovered this book in our catalog:

by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve.  

This is the true story of the author's childhood on a Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, in the middle of the twentieth century.  

Since her father is the Episcopal priest on the reservation, she gets her clothing from the donation boxes--which have already been picked over for the best items. I have to say, I can relate to Virginia's wish for a special coat. 

Check it out!

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