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Memories of Christmas in Brazil

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

VaDonna Pell got her first Christmas tree when she was 13. VaDonna hangs a glass bell that she and late husband, Chester, had on their first tree in 1943.

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Brazil, Indiana. All Christmases are special. But certain ones stand out in the memories of some people for different reasons.

It could be a particular situation or a cherished gift. It could be a recurring event that turned into a tradition. When Santa checks his list to see who's been naughty or nice, even naughty behavior could be the reason to remember the holiday. Some local residents were asked to recall a Christmas that they thought was special. Each had a great story to tell.

Marci Persinger Rush

I started cooking with my grandma (Vivian Case) when I was just three years old. She would take her apron and tie it around me. It was so big she had to fold it over so I wouldn't trip on it. And I had to stand on a chair.

Us kids were always at grandmas. We just lived a couple blocks from her. We'd bake cookies and bread and all kinds of stuff. And we always made Christmas cookies. Sugar cookies.

Grandma'd roll out the dough and after we cut them out she'd poke a hole at the edge of several cookies. When they came out of the oven and cooled we'd ice them with red and green icing and put sprinkles on them. Then we'd tie a ribbon through the hole and hang them on the Christmas tree. We got to eat the rest, except for a couple we saved for Santa. Oh, they were so good.

And I remember, we had a little terrier named Little Dog. Little dog knocked the tree over several times trying to get those cookies.

I made cookies with my grandma every Christmas until she died in 1979. I have such fond memories. It always makes me feel good inside when I think of my grandma and making those Christmas cookies. Now I'm teaching little Emily Wittenmyer, a family friend of ours, to make cookies.

Robbie Sutherlin

My husband, Tobe, is a really good man. But from what I've heard, he could be a bit ornery when he was a kid. When Santa checked to see who was naughty and nice, once Tobe was on the naughty list. I wasn't there but I've heard the story many times.

Tobe's actual name is David Bruce. They called him little Tobe cause his dad is called big Tobe even though little Tobe is bigger than big Tobe and big Tobe's name isn't even Tobe, its Lawrence.

Anyway, little Tobe, my wonderful husband, just loved to tease and pester his younger sister, Julia Ann, when they were kids. This was back when one of the favorite TV shows was Starsky and Hutch. Julia Ann, who was six or seven at the time, wanted a Starsky and Hutch doll for Christmas.

Well, little Tobe got up really early that Christmas morning and hid Julia Ann's doll. After all the gifts had been opened, there was no doll. Julia Ann was nearly in tears. Mom and Dad were perplexed. They knew Santa had brought the doll and couldn't imagine what happened to it.

Then little Tobe sauntered in and handed a package to his sister. 'Here's another present, Julia Ann,' he said with a big cheesy grin. No explanation was offered. And she was so happy when she opened the doll Julia Ann didn't even ask where it'd been.

Big Tobe had a tradition of making a large Christmas breakfast, so as soon as the last gift was opened he started cooking. Mom was tidying up the living room and Julia Ann was happily playing with her new doll. Nothing was ever said to little Tobe about that doll. And it was all forgotten. Except the next Christmas, one of little Tobe's special requests was omitted. Ho, ho, ho.

VaDonna Bryan Pell

Growing up we never had a Christmas tree until I was 13. I was raised on a farm in Dows, Iowa, with no electricity in our tiny little house. But not many had electricity back then during the Depression.

We always had a nice Christmas, though. Living on a farm, we had plenty to eat. My brother, Harold, and I would hang our stockings on our Round Oak wood burning heating stove. And we always got a present. Nothing elaborate but nice.

One year I got a baby doll with blue eyes that opened and shut. My brother, who was about seven then, got a hammer and saw.

We had nice Christmases but we never had a Christmas tree. Our house was just too small. We didn't have room for a tree. A lot of our neighbors didn't have trees either so we didn't feel slighted, but we always wanted one.

My mother developed Bright's Disease and high blood pressure. It was a kidney infection. She died of kidney failure when I was 12. My mother died one day in June and Grandpa Bryan died the very next day.

Dad tried real hard to give Harold and me a good Christmas that year. So he went out and climbed up in a big evergreen tree and cut out a big branch and brought it home. It was the first Christmas tree we'd ever had.

We strung popcorn, made paper chains, strung cranberries, saved the tin foil off of Hershey bars and hung some of my beads from my costume jewelry. It was beautiful.

We had no extra money due to the Depression, but my dad tried so hard to give us a good Christmas that year. He got me a plain gold signet ring with my initials engraved on it. Boy, was I ever proud of that ring.

Even though Mom was gone, we'd shed most of our tears. And Mom suffered so. It was a relief to us knowing she wasn't suffering any more.

Everything was white with snow that Christmas and Daddy tried so hard. So even though we lost Mom, it was still a happy Christmas. And we loved that Christmas tree.

Nina Waldrop Shoemaker

My mom (Eva Waldrop) has told me this story many times about her favorite Christmas. She's in her 90s now.

Mom was originally from the highlands in north Arkansas. Her parents basically lived off the land. They always had plenty to eat and lots of love, but with five children they had very few material things other than necessities. It was a hard life.

The children didn't have toys. There was little time for play. Almost as soon as they could walk they were expected to do whatever chores they were capable of to help maintain the family.

One of Mom's jobs was to feed the chickens and gather eggs every morning before breakfast. On this particular Christmas morning it was bitter cold. Mom was just six and she hated going out in that chicken house when it was so cold. But she knew she had to do it and she did all of her jobs with a smile in her heart.

She was excited about it being Christmas. They'd have special fruitcakes that her momma made and noodles and mincemeat and pumpkin pie.

Mom didn't expect any toys because they never got any. She always wanted a doll but knew she wouldn't get one so didn't dwell on it. And Mom never even told anyone about her wishes.

Usually the kids got a little bag of candy and fruit. A banana and orange was really a special treat. The boys got new overalls and the girls got a muffler with matching mittens.

On this cold Christmas morning Mom bundled up and ran to the hen house to do her chores. She worked fast and had most of the eggs in her bucket with just one more nest to empty. She looked and couldn't believe what she saw.

Lying there in that nest was the prettiest doll she had ever seen. It had a china face, a pair of shiny black shoes on its little feet, golden hair and big blue eyes that matched its dress. Mom was so excited. She told me that was the best Christmas she ever had.

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night" from the staff of The Brazil Times.

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As I sit here researching Brazil for my sons project I was moved by the story for many reasons. I just lost my mother she too suffered hard times and a long illness lived through the depression etc. When I was a child I wanted something but never spoke of it because my parents did the best they could and we didn't have money. And now I sit here heartbroken not able to give my children what they want because we have fallen on hard times the past 2 years.

It's amazing how history repeats itself but love is forever lasting.

-- Posted by jrigano on Mon, Dec 14, 2009, at 1:37 AM

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