29 December, 2010

The 4th Day of Christmas

The Chicken Coop Christmas

It was early summer, 1955. My brother John had been born nearly two months premature the previous February in the Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee, AZ. After his birth, Dad applied for and accepted a job as a health inspector and engineer for the Denver Dept. of Health and Hospitals. We moved back from Bisbee to Denver. Dad had a Civil Engineering degree from Clemson College in Pickens,SC, and had served in both the Navy and the Army Air Corp during WWII. He knew how to fix most anything... and he loved being a Dad.

We were a family, struggling.

My grandmother offered to give us a berth for a while in her little WWII house. That lasted about two months. Simply spoken, not enough room and way too many memories for Mom and Grandmother.

Dad found a small converted chicken coop out west in the rural, turning quickly suburban unincorporated township of Wheat Ridge. Like many folks in the rural communities west of Denver, Al Munger, an elderly and taciturn German farmer had transformed one of his chicken coops into housing for the Remington Arms Munitions plant south in Lakewood. He rented it to us a pittance.

We were a family, and growing.

Autumn arrived, I fed horses, and fished for Sunfish and Bluegill in one of the irrigation ponds.
My buds from school and I wandered about the fields in the waning afternoons...chasing rabbits and the errant pheasant, talking of shooting our first animal, bringing home meat for the table.
Some had BB guns, some had shot a .22. The cottonwoods turned from yellow to brown to empty skeletons.

Winter cold rolled in early, brutal and windy. It was Advent. Mum and Grandmother walked the fence line, picked up shapely tumbleweeds and lots of milkweed seed pods. The tumbleweeds, dusted with a bit of spray flocking and ornaments, became prairie Christmas trees. The milkweed pods, painted and decked with paper and sparkling flecks, turned into Christmas geese and ducks.

Christmas drew closer. Frigid wind days and snow speckled, black nights haunted us. My little brother and I slept in a low shed roofed room to the north. There was no heat in the room. Piles of flannel and heavy quilts kept us from the cold. Each night, bricks, heated in the kitchen oven and wrapped in a towel, were stuffed at our feet to help us keep warm.

Mum put up a small evergreen tree with a couple strings of lights, tinsel and ornaments from her childhood. Dad worked a second job as a night cashier for the local liquor store. I came home sick one day. Chickenpox. My infant brother caught the virus. Poor lil' feller whimpered at the itch. Mum quickly knit him tiny mittens of soft cotton so he could not scratch open sores.

It was a good Christmas, baring all the hardships. Somehow we had presents and fresh fruit, turkey and dressing, sweet 'taters and green beans. Somehow, aunts and uncles and cousins called us to feast with them, sing with them, worship God with them.

Somehow.....somehow, we made it through.

Somehow, God and family and hard times forged bonds that are still strong today.

"Somehow" is the omnipotent, all encompassing love of God. He provides and cares for us. It is as true today as it was 55 years ago.

Bless you all, beloved ones. Happy 4th day of Christmas!

No comments:

Post a Comment