Creating Magic: Out of Nothing At All

When I’m sick, I get a lot of reading done between naps.  I was catching up with you guys when I read “Frugal Decorating At Our Little Red House”.

As you know, I don’t prefer a tree but Clay does and I admit two things…. he did a great job of not uglying up my house with it, in fact, it’s beautiful and I have warm memories of my childhood traditionally celebrated christmases.

Reading the afore mentioned blog, brought back those memories and a renewed appreciation of my mother. She was a miracle worker, creating magic out of nothing at all.  I’d describe those years as lean but that would be generous.  Those years were our own private depression era.

We moved constantly, from city to city, state to state, my stepdad chasing work and a chance to provide for his family.  We’d find ourselves living in a one room motel kitchenette, 2-3 weeks from a payday with nothing but rice, onions and tomato sauce, given to mom on credit from the local grocery.  Mom would fill our bellies with rice with sugar for breakfast and Spanish rice at night…every day.

I never knew where I’d wake up the next day.  I learned to remain detached from people and not make friends.  They’d only be left behind in a few weeks. I still have difficulty letting people close to me, even to this day.  The only solid thing I had to cling to in life was my mom.

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At one point we ended up in Illinois, moving right next to my cousins.  Family was forever so alas, I finally had a real friend!  My cousin, Little Frank, was my very best friend in all the world!  We choreographed dance routines,  built forts and snowmen.  I wished to stay there forever but it wasn’t to be.  But, I remember christmas there…

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We had a live tree, whose fragrance filled the room and needles, scattered across the floor, pricked bare feet.  That smell would forever be christmas to me and bring me back to that very place in time.  My mother wrapped the tree in fat multi colored lights and my little brothers and my tiny fingers, laced silver strands of tinsel through it’s branches.  With threaded needles, we strung popcorn for a  garland and she taught me how to cut snowflakes from folded paper that she taped to the windows like a snowy day.

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I watched her cut the cups from cardboard egg cartons she’d saved, wrap them in tin foil and string them together like silver bells.  In the kitchen, she made cookie dough, divided it, dying half red with food coloring.  We rolled out fine ropes of dough then twisted them together, making candy cane cookies.

When all was decorated, she lit up the tree and in my mind, I had never seen anything more beautiful…magical.  By it’s light, we sang christmas Carol’s, nibbled warm cookies with cups of cold milk and befor6 bed, she told us stories, The Night Before Christmas and The Story of Jesus.

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Christmas was meager, makeshift, frugal and homemade, but we had a mother who sat on the floor with her children, crafting decorations, singing songs, making memories and magic…out of nothing at all.  And I think to myself, that in all that lean and little, I had never been richer.

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L to R: Little Frank, Me, my brother, Eddie,  Frank’s brother, Danny

22 comments

  1. Thanks for the memories Laura. I grew up in what seems an average home, where money did not grow on trees, Christmas or otherwise. My precious mum never made a big deal out of our lack, but also made the best of every situation.
    We’ve had a very difficult year this year and I scraped together an airfares to have my stepson with us for the first time in many years. Beyond that it will be a very quiet Christmas. I am praising God for His provision even now, as we have been generously provided a piece of wild pork to roast on the BBQ, as well as some beautiful big fresh fish. Our garden should produce much of the balance (it is summer here). I am truly thankful and reminded of many such years. I choose this over commercial.

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  2. Laura, thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Reading this made me think of the first Little House on the Prairie episode (I believe it was the pilot) when Mr. Edwards showed up covered in snow and gave everyone the simplest of gifts. Laura was overjoyed that she now had her own cup. It’s those kind of moments in life that are most meaningful and that you never forget.

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  3. Awww…such a beautiful Christmas story. My grandmother from my father’s side was always doing things just like your mom, its where I got a lot of my ideas. My poor grandma even lost half her children one year because she couldn’t afford to take care of them all when my grandfather left her. He took all the kids with the blonde hair and left her the dark haired twins. My grandmother had dark hair and blue eyes and out of all the kids she had with my grandfather, my father and his identical twin were the only brunetts in the bunch. so my grandfather thought my grandma cheated on him. She wanted to get all her other kids back (he took 6) but she was uneducated and poor. When she was finally able to get back on her feet and had some money and a vehicle she drove all the way to another state to get her babies back. By that time they had been put into a children’s home (orphanage) they were so happy when she picked them up. My aunt tells me this story all the time. When my dad was older he looked like the father that left him. My grandmother remarried and my dad loved his step dad like he was his real father and in his heart he was. Your post made me think of my grandma and all those little handmade presents she made for all grandbabies and there were over 20 of us to make things for. We were all taught how to be frugal, save money, and share everything. Hope you are feeling better. Thanks for another great read.

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  4. Fellow former “sugar on rice” eater stopping in to say, “that was beautiful.”
    Reading this helped me pluck one or two genuine memories of my own mom that don’t cause pain.
    She did a lot of bad, but she could rock a needle and thread for popcorn garland.

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  5. It doesn’t really take much to leave an impression – whether good or bad – on a child. Your mom sounds like a very special person who had magic in her and was able to share it. Although your childhood was difficult, this warm memory is touching.

    People who grew up with little have a strong appreciation of the blessings in their world today ❤️

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