I woke up at seven and peeped out the frosty window. No snow, no sleet, just a hint of sunshine. We could go Christmas shopping today! Mom and Daddy had decided this would be the year I could do my own Christmas shopping for our family of four. It was an exciting adventure for a child of seven in 1950.
I wolfed down my breakfast of fried eggs, sausage, and biscuits without the usual savoring of strawberry preserves on the last half of the biscuit. Today there were much more important things to do. I paced while everyone got dressed and Daddy warmed up the car. There was no snow but it was 30 degrees with frost on the windows.
Finally, we all piled into the car – Mom, Daddy, younger brother, Homer, and drove the eight miles to Rainelle. Daddy found a choice parking spot in front of Murphy’s Five and Dime and we went inside. “Frosty the Snowman” was playing on the sound system and the store was a fairyland — aglow with lights and tinsel. Daddy handed me a $5 bill. I folded it up carefully, put it in my plastic coin purse,and stowed the purse in my coat pocket, buttoning it to be sure that precious money would not fall out. Daddy wandered off to “Hunting Supplies;” Mom, with Homer in tow, to “Toys;” and I was on my own.
I had planned my strategy ahead of time. I could spend $1.50 on each person and have 50 cents left for a bag of penny candy. I decided to start with Mom’s gift. There were so many choices…bottles of perfume, packaged in see-through paper and tied with red and green ribbons…white hanker chefs embroidered with pink and blue flowers, displayed under cellophane in square gift boxes…tiny gold angels on sparkling chains, fastened securely into black velvet boxes…so many choices. I settled on the gold angel necklace and quickly looked around to be sure Mom wasn’t nearby before handing my five-dollar bill to the smiling cashier. The surprise was everything.
Shopping for Daddy was easier. I debated between a package of warm socks and a tiny silver pocket knife. The pocket knife won. On Christmas morning, Daddy said it was exactly what he needed to carry in his pocket when he went to work in the coal mines. I grinned with pride.
When I was sure Mom and Homer had moved from “Toys” to“Clothing,” I tackled my last shopping challenge – my four-year-old brother.There were so many choices…red fire trucks; Tinker Toys; wind-up dogs that waddled across the floor and barked; cowboy guns and holsters. I agonized but finally decided on the Gene Autrey gun and holster. Homer strapped it on Christmas morning and screamed when Mom wouldn’t let him wear it to bed.
My mother loved the angel necklace and wore it on special occasions, always proudly pointing out to her friends who admired it,“Sharon gave it to me for Christmas.” I declared my first Christmas shopping adventure a great success. When I counted my change after all my purchases, I had twenty-eight cents left. Homer and I carefully selected our favorite candies – Coconut Slices, Taffy, Candy Cigarettes, Pops, Fruit Chews, and Dubble Bubble Gum. It was a good day!
SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is an award-winning poet and author of a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; a book of poetry, Tapestry;and four children’s books, Herman the Hermit Crab and the Mystery of the Big,Black, Shiny Thing; Revolt of the Teacups; and two newly released books, Buddy the Bookworm Rescues the Doomed Books; Buddy and Ballerina Save the Library. Her poetry is also included in an anthology, Captured Moments.