Friday, December 24, 2010

Remembering Christmas Eve

Birdie Tobler, Mimi's oldest sister

Mimi, age 10, with her older sister Aileen and younger sister Lois

Our cousin Joan wrote in her Christmas card that 2 photos (see above) taken of members of the Harmon Tobler family by photographers Huntington & Bagley are included in their collection which was donated to BYU library in 1974 and digitized quite recently. Here's the link for the collection.

Mimi clearly remembers her dress and that the fabric was "pongee", which she says is a low-grade silk. She also remembers Lois' dress. Speaking of remembering, I showed her all the images of folks from Bunkerville and Mesquite in the collection and she could name almost everyone pictured, sometimes all of the family members in a group shot, even the babies.

The following story/poem was written as she remembers Christmas of 1923, the first Christmas after their mother died.

"There Still Was Christmas"

It was nearing dusk on Christmas Eve
after a day spent sweeping and dusting;
(Even our huge back dooryard was swept.)
We'd parched some Indian corn,
and my oldest sister had made molasses candy,
stretching it out, at first fat like her braids,
and then small and smaller,
Until snap! It was fat again
with more stretching to be done.

My bigger and my little sister and I
looked again and again out the kitchen window
at the bare trees and the brown ground
and the dead leaves blown about by the winter wind.
The littlest, four, spoke for us all,
"Is this all of Christmas? she asked.
"Of course not," we both answered at once,
"There's Santa Claus to come tonight."
Her look showed her doubt as
we all watched out our kitchen's one small window.

My seven-year-old thoughts were a jumble.
Christmas meant Mama;
But Christmas had come back,
And Mama, who'd left soon after,
hadn't and wouldn't. I knew that.
And how could there be Christmas without Mama?

There's been no Mama smiling up
at the school Christmas program
when I'd recited, "Jest 'Fore Christmas."
Midway, I'd looked down at my dirty school dress
and remembered Edith's red-checked one
and the red ribbons in her hair,
and had nearly lost my place.

No Mama to put pennies and nickles and dimes,
(and sometimes even quarters)
into Papa's littlest desk drawer that
locked with a tiny gold key.
"Now that's for Santa Claus," she'd say.

No Mama to ask Papa about getting a tree.
He'd remonstrate, "I just can't see
taking a whole day from the wheat planting
for just a tree."
And I'd look out at the blue mountains
with their snowy peaks,
ten or twelve slow, pony-stepped miles away--
But seeing the look in Mama's dark blue eyes,
I knew he'd go.

No Mama to braid beautiful yellow egg bread
sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar
for Christmas breakfast.

She must even have prompted Santa about the dolls--
They always sat under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning
wearing pretty new dresses that reminded me
of the little pieces I'd smoothed and folded
for Mama's scrap box.

I think Mama knew too about the little satiny candy pillows
that filled the tiny cornucopias we made
and hung on the Christmas tree.

I turned when I heard the jangle of milk buckets
as the boys left for their chores,
Lee whistling "Silent Night."
And then I heard Old Nelly's tired step
and felt a cold draft of winter air
as Papa burst through the kitchen door,
His dark hair crowding out from under his old work hat
over a wide smile, and in his arms
a beautiful, divinely-fragrant pinon pine.
And oh! the look on my little sister's face.

by Mildred T. Hunt

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