Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Christmas Memory

Conitz Home
by Ellen Conitz
8" x 10"

Christmas was coming. I knew that.

I was little, maybe two or three years old, or maybe even a bit younger. We lived in the Victorian house that my great-grandfather had built about 1900, in an apartment upstairs, while great-grandpa (we just called him Grandpa) and one of his bachelor sons, "Uncle Goose", lived downstairs. After Grandpa died, we were still there until I was about 4, and "Uncle Goose" remained downstairs. Part of the downstairs was rented out to Ollie and his wife, Dell, after Grandpa was gone.

A leaded glass front door led into the entry hall, with its polished hardwood floor and paneling, and to the stairs that were in the witches peak. A desk was under the staircase, along with a wooden chair with a padded seat. A tall grandfather clock, with a ship rocking on waves, a moon, and a smiling sun, stood by the door that led into the dining room and library. Sliding pocket doors that matched the wood paneling led into the parlor that served as my mother's music room. She had her baby grand piano in that lovely room with its wide, tall windows, and wood paneling.

At Christmas time, there was debate about whether to put a large cedar tree in the landing on the stairs, where it could be seen through the windows in the witches peak, or whether to put it in the big front window in the music room. The music room could handle a big tree best. I remember trees in both places, as well as in the dining room, and a small one upstairs. I also remember debates about whether to buy new electric lights, or using candles. I do remember having candles on the tree when it was in the dining room. My mother was concerned about a possible fire, but the older folks were used to candles. They did agree that some houses had burned as a result of a tree being too dry and the candles touching the branches.

But, this particular year, there were electric lights, and the tree was in the music room.

Sometimes, when Mama practiced, she would let me play in the music room, or sit with her when she played the piano. Sometimes, she had young students in for piano lessons, and ladies came to sing with her for solos at church or in programs in town. But, often, I was a little pest, wanting attenion, and doing everything I could think of so that my mother would pay attention to me, and not to those other people or her piano. And, those times, I was urged to go out and play, or to stay upstairs, go to my grandmother's house next door, or to just sit quietly out in the hall until she was through. And, there I might sit, on the steps or on the chair, pouting, squirming, or creeping up to the keyhole to see what was happening in the other room. I hoped that Mama would feel sorry for me, and invite me back in.

In this year that I am remembering, I was sitting out on the steps in the hall a lot. I walked up and down the stairs, thinking of how I might just be able to jump over to the chandelier over the hall, and swing, Tarzan style, down the stairs and across the hall. That might be more exciting than sliding down the banister, or sitting down and bumping all the way down the stairs. Then, I returned to the lower steps, impatiently waiting for my mother.

"Why don't you try to think of what you want Santa Claus to bring you. It won't be long until Christmas,"my mother had suggested something to keep me busy. A doll was at the top of my list. I also wanted a horse, a tea set, a little table and chairs, some pretty clothes and shoes.

"How about a rocking horse? You're too little for a horse, yet,"my mother told me.

Back then, there were beautifully carved, prancing or raring up, horses, more like carousel horses than the simple wooden or plastic things of today. You could imagine that those were real horses with delicate details in their nostrils and on their manes, even their teeth and tongues. A beautiful rocking horse would be okay. I could ride that indoors and in bad weather.

Mama was busy upstairs and I walked down the staris to look at the Christmas tree, sliding the doors open as quietly as I could. It was almost Christmas and I was getting more excited.

There was the beautiful tree, with it's glass balls shining and candy canes and ornaments standing out against the green tree. But, in front of the side window, there was the most gorgeous carved wooden rocking horse imaginable. It was carved from dark wood and every detail stood out. I ran my fingers over the mane and the teeth, and put my hand inside its mouth. I walked around the horse and touched the tail and the hooves. The rockers were even finished to match the rest of the horse. It was a little bit too big for me, but that was alright. I would grow to it quickly and I could still climb up on the horse. Did I dare to actually climb up on the horse and rock on it? My heart was pounding. I did. I climbed on the horse and felt like I was racing along in the fields on my loyal steed. My hair would be blowing in the wind as we raced along, in my imagination. Across the lawn and the field, I could see the trees that lined the driveway at my grandmother's house. I could have my horse gallop across there with ease to go see what Grandma was doing. At least, I could in my imagination.

"I had better not stay on here too long," I told myself.

"Cecelia! Cecelia! You'd better get back up here!" My mother was calling.

I tip toed out of the music room and carefully slid the doors back together. I hoped that I had left the horse in the same position that I had found it. I closed the front door, so that my mother would think that I was coming in from outside, and ran up the stairs. I didn't mention a word about seeing the rocking horse.

"You haven't been in the music room, have you?" she demanded.

"No. I've been outside," I looked at my shoes.

"Good. I want you to stay out of that room. Do you hear me?" she was cutting out a dress with the material spread on the bed. Straight pins were in her mouth and the big scissors were in her hand.

"Okay," I mumbled.

After that, the sliding doors to the music room stayed closed. I still peeked in the keyhole or under the doors, from time to time, to admire my magnificent horse.

"I'm going to get a rocking horse for Christmas," I told my mother one day. "Santa Claus has already been here. It's downstairs by the Christmas tree."

"No your'e not! Not the way you've been acting!" my mother insisted.

I thought that she was just trying to hide the rocking horse from me, and, Christmas Eve night, we would go downstairs to the Christmas tree, and there would be my horse.

"Okay, there is a rocking horse down there, but it is not for you. We're keeping that for another child in town. " Daddy explained.

" I don't believe it. That's my horse!" I argued.

"Well, young lady, you can believe it or not, but that horse is for someone else. And you stay out of there!" Daddy said.

I still didn't believe them. I longed for the magical night when I would get my beautiful rocking horse, with the wonderful carved wood. I sat on the steps, staring at the sliding doors to the music room, wishing that it would hurry up and be Christmas Eve. Time just dragged by. I still wasn't allowed in the music room, even when Mama practiced, and I couldn't seem to sneak in there, either. Mama was everywhere.

Finally, Christmas Eve arrived. Daddy and all the rest of the family had to stay at the store as long as there were customers, but we waited on them to arrive and have our tree.

"Aren't they ever coming?" I kept asking impatiently.

Mama gave me a candy candle stick to keep me busy. I put it on the floor and jumped over it, repeatedly, saying, "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candle stick". And then I would jump over the candle stick as far across the room as I could. And, in between jumps, I would go to the window and see if any of the family might be driving across the railroad tracks from town.

I finally stretched out on the bed and went to sleep.

When Daddy came home, he carried me downstairs to the music room, where the family was gathered. Grandma, Grandpa, Thelma, Irvin, "Pappy", "Uncle Tom", "Toot", "Honey", and Mama. "Uncle Goose" was in the basement, listening to the radio and drinking his beer.

I sleepily took the presents that were handed to me, and just wanted to go back to sleep. I tried to open my eyes, looking for my horse.

It wasn't there. My horse was gone. Daddy collected my gifts. A little bracelet, some socks with lace, a dress with a pinafore, some shoes, a book, some scrap books of pictures that my mother had made for me, and the big thing was a rubber doll that had a bottle with it. We could put liquid in the bottle and it would run through the doll, wetting its pants.

"But, where's my horse?" I whined.

"I told you that horse was not for you. It was for another little girl. And, besides, that horse was too big for you." Daddy carried me upstairs and put me in my baby bed. I tried to cry, but I was too sleepy.

The next day, I pouted and longed for my rocking horse. I played with my doll, pouring water through it, time after time. The two diapers that came with the doll didn't last very long, so water was ending up on the floor. The doll was soon banished to outdoors, when I fed it, and, indoors, the bottle was put up.

I never knew who got that beautiful horse, but they sure must have had a wonderful Christmas. They couldn't have loved that horse any more than I did, though. I never got such a wonderful rocking horse, either.

There was a wooden Lone Ranger's horse, "Silver", at the obstretician/pediatrician's office in Marlin. Dr. Davison's office was like a cozy house, with a cukoo clock in the waiting room. There was a play room for children off the main sitting room. A wonderful room with big book shelves and toys. Of course, the thing that children had to learn to take turns with was "Silver". We worked out turns with one person riding and the other children acting as cowboys and Indians, pretending to gallop around the room and play out a cowboy story. No one wanted to get off the horse when the doctor was ready for them. There was also an interesting spinning top and a jack in the box, along with puzzles and other toys in the room. It was nice, but it didn't totally take away the fear of waiting to see the doctor.

When my sister was a baby, our parents did get her a rocking horse that was like two cut out horses, done in pretty pastel colors, with a seat in between it. It had a "seat belt" in it, so the baby could sit and rock. My friends and I would squeeze into the rocking horse, so we could ride, too.

Later, when my son was small, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to carve a rocking horse for him. Not a plain one like they had in the stores, but a beautiful, dark, wooden horse like I thought I was getting. I never tried it. I'm not so sure that I could carve such a realistic animal. It would probably have taken many trees before I could get it to look anything like a horse. Now, clay might be another matter!

I got one of those plastic jumping horses for my daughter, when she was small. It looked nice, except for the springs on the side. I thought those might be dangerous, if a child fell sideways into them. I didn't know just how dangerous that horse was! It didn't get the child, but it sure got me!

One day, I was walking down the mobile home steps, carrying a basket of laundry. The horse was beside the steps. The steps tilted and I fell across the horse. I didn't know it, but my ribs had a hairline crack. Much later, I was trying to pull an air conditioner across the floor where some men had left it. I had such pain that I couldn't get up. I thought I was going to have to call the police to help me out of bed. X-rays, later, revealed that I had a hairline fracture in my ribs, and, when I pulled on that air conditioner, they separated. The horse was fine, though!
Be sure to look at the links in my side bar, and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see my new Guest Book. You can even add a picture there if you would like to share some of your art work for others to see.
I hope that your Christmas was a truly wonderful one, and that you got the things that you dreamed that Santa would bring you. And, above all, that the children in your life got the things they hoped for. I hope that their rocking horses didn't go to someone else!
One gift that we got here was a spectacular sunset! Gorgeous colors to end Christmas Day.
Thank you for reading and for sharing. Let me know if you see something of interest.

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