It was a cold bitter wind that blew down our dirt road. There was ice on the creek and snow flurries blowing across the yard. It was cold in our four-room shotgun shack. You could feel the air coming in through the cracks on the old plank board floor. The windows were frosted over and the candles on the window sill flickered casting shadows around the room.
The potbellied stove crackled as the oak logs burned hot providing the only warmth for the whole house. Mama had warmed bricks and placed them under our quilts to warm our feet. My sisters and I couldn’t sleep. After all, it was Christmas Eve and Daddy should be home soon. We brought our quilts out and placed them around the wood stove. Mama was fixing hot chocolate and marshmallows to warm us up. The wind was howling and the night was dark. You could hear dogs barking in the distance. We were all afraid and Mama kept looking out the window and telling us to shush. She sat down in her grandma’s rocking chair and had us pull our blankets around so she could tell us Christmas stories.
We cut a tree earlier that day and picked up pinecones in wicker baskets. It took all four of us to get the tree into the house. It was getting late and Daddy was supposed to be home before midnight. So we started decorating the tree with painted pine cones and popcorn Mama helped us string. The farm had a bad year and we all knew that it would be slim pickings this Christmas. I was only five and I still had hopes that Santa could get down that snow-covered road and remember me. To be honest all I really wanted was for Daddy to come home soon.
Daddy was in Myrtle Beach working for my Uncle Grant who was a cabinet maker. It was the only way we would have Christmas dinner tomorrow. It was getting late and we didn’t have a phone so Daddy couldn’t call home. We all were drifting off to sleep, each of us with our own dreams, our own hopes, and fears.
The farm was near the end of a long dark dirt road. Every few minutes Mama would get up and look out the window for his headlights. Around midnight we could see two very dim points of light way down the road. I could hear the tires crunching the snow on the old wooden bridge and Daddy pulling into the yard. We all rushed out to the car to get hugs and jump up into Daddy’s arms. Daddy had a big smile on his face and a kiss for Mama. My heart was a little heavy because I couldn’t see any presents in the back seat. Daddy saw the look on our faces and said “Help me get the food out of the back and let’s eat”. Maybe Santa will be along soon. After goodnight hugs and kisses, we all soon drifted off to sleep. It didn’t take long before the dreams took me away.
I was awakened early by the smell of coffee and ran out to the kitchen. Daddy was drinking a hot cup of coffee and Mama was making homemade biscuits. The smell of bacon and pancakes filled the house. We all made a beeline to the Christmas tree. There was a big burlap sack painted in greens and reds with my name on it. It was filled with wooden blocks in all shapes and colors, red, blue, green, and yellow. I poured all the blocks out on the floor and started building a fort. Daddy said they were from Santa but I knew he had made them for me. I would cherish that Christmas and the knowledge that he made something just for me. My sisters got cedar music boxes with metal hinges and little locks that he made for them. It was the best Christmas I remember having.
As I grew older I realized he was off working because we had no money yet it was a Christmas I always remembered because my Daddy came home, and even though we had no money he found a way for us to have a great Christmas.