Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas is Coming (an excerpt from Cavendish Hillside Farm)

For many generations now, children and adults alike have enjoyed the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who described what early pioneer life was like in the late 1800s. Many in Cavendish are not aware that we have our own Laura Ingalls Wilder in the form of Sandra Stearns. Her book Cavendish Hillside Farms 1939-1957 describes what it was like growing up on a East Hill Rd farm in Cavendish, attending the Center Road School, the one room school house on the corner of Town Farm and Center Roads. Below is an excerpt from her book

As Christmas time approached our excitement grew. There would be parties at school and church. About a week before the big day, Dad we kids would venture into the forest to find the perfect tree. Every year we seemed to find the perfect one, though we had cut it the previous year. In later years Junior and I were allowed to choose and bring home the tree by ourselves. Often the perfect specimen in the forest proved to be sadly lacking in the living room. But Mother never said a word and cheerfully praised our selection. I can honestly say that after it was loaded with decorations it didn’t look so bad.

Dad would nail together a two-by-four stand and it was set up in the window in the living room. In the early years we didn’t have electricity and my parents felt that candles were too dangerous. The candles were put on the tree but never lit. The tree was trimmed with glass balls, metal twisted strips for icicles, and knitted and crocheted ornaments my mother made. Heavy foil garlands were draped around it before the delicate tinsel we have today became common. We made paper chains and cut out countless paper snowflakes to enhance the scene.

Mom always made fruitcake, maple sugar cakes and popcorn balls. When I was twelve or so she started cutting and decorating special Christmas cookies. A box was given to each family of cousins, with plenty left for us to enjoy. Christmas, today, must have decorated cookies!

Christmas morning found the tree decked out in knitted mittens, hats and scarves. My mother had been working late at night for weeks.

Out stockings always had an orange in the toe, paper dolls, coloring books and crayons, some candy and gum, pencils and a banana sticking out of the top. Once or twice we received the dreaded stick and piece of cola for being bad. Mom always produced the desired items we had expected after we had sworn to reform.

Cavendish Hillside Farms 1939-1957 by Sandra Field Sterns makes a wonderful holiday present. To purchase a copy, contact or call 802-226-7807. A copy can also be purchased by sending $10, plus $5 for shipping and handling to PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142. Checks should be made payable to CHS.  Because of holiday mail, order early. 

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