PAGE THREE Christmas Tales

Clear Picture On Snowy Night

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I suppose we all have stories about Christmas. Here is one from my family:

Back in the 1950s, when my oldest sister, Colleen, was young, she was watching the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on our old black-and-white TV set. Times were tough, and it was snowing outside. My mother, a tremendous worrier, was upset that my father had not come home from work. Snow always made my mother frantic, and things got worse when the picture on the TV turned to snow, a sure sign of a serious problem with the TV -- which my parents did not have money to fix.

Watching my mother at times like these was not easy, and my sister was upset as well, so much so that she went over to the sideboard in our living room and prayed in front of the manger scene on display. Then she took the infant Jesus over to touch the TV screen. In a flash, the picture returned. My mother yelled at my sister, "What did you do?" My sister told her the story. My mother, still upset, then uttered one of her favorite expressions, "Oh, for heaven's sake!"

None of us knew what exactly took place that day, and the story is told and retold at family gatherings with equal parts humor and reverence.

One thing is for certain: No one should ever question the faith of a child.

-- Thomas Ponton, Columbia

Treasured Creations

The years rolled away as I stood in my Bethesda kitchen recently and opened the Depression glass cracker jar, with its signature green metal top, that holds some of my most precious possessions: handmade Christmas cookie cutters.

I remember that afternoon more than 50 years ago as if it were yesterday.

It was a snowy Saturday afternoon in the early 1950s, with the wind swirling the fresh snow up against the old farmhouse windows, and I was helping my mother make cookie dough in our large, old country kitchen. My siblings were in the playroom quietly playing, as we had all been promised cookies if we were good while she baked. My dad was sitting at the kitchen table playing his guitar, and we were happily singing all of the songs we knew.

My mom remarked that she wished she had some Christmas cookie cutters. Daddy put down his guitar and asked me to put on my coat and hat, go out to the garage and bring in the box of old coffee cans while he went down to the basement to get his tin snips, pliers and soldering iron. I knew something magical was about to happen, because my precious father was always so creative, and I was right.

Daddy and I washed and dried the old coffee cans, and I watched him pick up one as he asked me what shape I thought the first cookie cutter should be. "A Christmas tin soldier," I answered, and watched, fascinated, as he picked up the heavy tin snips and cut a large strip of raw sharp metal from the old coffee can. He then picked up his pliers and began to shape the metal strip until it did indeed look like a tin soldier. The hot soldering iron was waiting, leaning against a brick on the kitchen table, and I had been warned not to go near it. Daddy clipped the two ends of the tin soldier together with one of mother's wooden clothespins and then picked up a large heavy spool of solder and pulled off about four inches of it. He held one tip of it against the raw edges of the tin soldier while holding the hot soldering iron in the other hand. He touched the two together, and I watched the solder melt and seal the edges, and the smell of it filled the air.

Mother asked for a Christmas wreath next, and so the afternoon went happily by with mother using the 10 newly made Christmas cookie cutters as daddy finished them. The three of us ate the first batch of magical cookies with cups of mother's homemade cocoa. What a sweet treat. What a sweet memory.

-- Alice Lyons, Bethesda

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