Rodney Roe's Blog

Still Trying to Make Sense of It All

Rodney Roe

Rodney Roe
Clayton, Georgia, USA
November 22
I currently place myself among the curmudgeons of the world. Always thinking about why things are, and how they may be better, I tend to rant at times, but mostly I just look for a reasoned discourse. I have previously worked as a cotton scout, grocery bag boy, cannery worker, and am a physician. I am married, have two daughters and four granddaughters. I retired due to vision loss in 2005 after a 30 year career as a hospital pathologist. Fortunate to have a wide range of interests, life following retirement has been good.

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DECEMBER 13, 2011 10:39PM

Pajamas to Cry For, "the truth about Santa"

Rate: 14 Flag

I don’t remember my first Christmas. Who does?  By my fifth Christmas, though, my father was back from the war (WWII), I had a little brother, and we had moved, following my Dad’s work, to a new town and home.  I know, also , that I don’t remember any Christmas before then.  Was there no tree during the war?  Were there no presents?  Probably, I just don’t remember because I was too young.

Christmas in our new home was very Spartan.  Dad had a job, worked every day, and we decorated a tree, but our Christmas was less showy and the opulence was more noticeable at the neighbor’s.

In retrospect I know that my folks couldn’t have done anything else. Both of my parents grew up very poor.  Both grew up on farms.  Life was hard and precarious.  There were many years when my father’s Christmas consisted of getting a stocking at the chimney.  Mother’s childhood consisted of living on serial tenant farms.  There were years when she stayed home and worked in stead of going to school. 

My father was salutatorian of his high school class (his sister was valedictorian).  Mother did very well.  It didn’t matter.  Working took precedence and being able to eat was more important than education.

All of this is background to the story of how I ceased to believe in Santa and came to realize that Christmas was much more than a guy in a funny suit.

I noticed early that the neighbor kids got more than we did.  They got tangerines in their stocking.  I was grown before I had a tangerine.  I had a deep seated sense of fairness even then, and it just didn’t seem plausible that Santa (sort of a god surrogate) would play favorites.

Sometime during my first year of grade school I was told by an older student that there was no Santa Claus.  I was so relieved.  My faith in justice was restored.  I came home and told mother what I had heard.  Her direction was not to spoil Christmas for my younger brother.

Over the years I got a used bicycle hand painted with red paint complete with brush marks and my stocking got hard candy, nuts, and fruit that was no more unusual than an orange.  Every Christmas I got a new pocket knife (I had always either broken last year's or lost it) and a new box of shotgun shells.  That is 25 shells.  We hunted for food.  I ate squirrel and rabbit several days a week.  Only having 25 shells for the season made everyone choose their shots.

The most wonderful Christmas gift any of us got came sometime in the junior high school years.  Carefully tearing open the wrapping paper (paper that had also been used last year) my brother, father and I all pulled out a set of handmade pajamas.  The pajamas had been made from chicken feed sacks, but that isn’t what made them special.  We had clothes made of feed sacks.  What made these special was that the four quarters of our pajama tops and bottoms were each made from a different feed sack pattern.  Mother confessed that she just couldn’t find enough sacks with the same pattern, so we got pajamas “of many colors”.

We modeled our pajamas, camped it up, and laughed until we were in tears.  That was the Christmas when I came to know that Jesus wasn’t the little plastic doll in the crèche.  Jesus wasn’t the Anglo-Saxon looking dude on the wall at church.  Santa wasn’t a North Pole denizen who gave presents, unfairly, to good little boys and girls, but instead was an ideal; an ideal that inspired individuals to think about how they might give more than they could afford, and inspire others to share unselfishly with those that they love. 

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I can't tell you how much I like your story. It just builds, with details and insights that tell so much. Your vision of this season is purely inspiring.
Oh, I can relate...we had sheets made from flour and sugar sacks sewn together! Great memories, nonetheless. Merry Christmas!
Rodney: how thoughtful and spiritual this piece is. The style adds to the moving nature of the story. Gentle and moving and compelling. Thank you.
Perhaps some of you can tell me why this post doesn't show up under the "view responses" area on the home page. I tagged it with open+call, the+truth+about+santa, and "the truth about santa". This has happened before and makes me think I'm not dotting an I or something.
Mary Ann, sheets from flour sacks was pretty ingenious. It's amazing how you find similar experiences in other people's lives.
Anne, thanks. You know I just tell stories.
dianaani, thanks for your warm praise.
What an endearing post, Rodney. It's ironic that your faith in justice was restored by learning that Santa did not exist. My father was poor in his youth and he taught us similar values as the ones you talk about here.

Your piece does show in the call feed. You did not need the + 's between the tag.

Happy holidays.

Fusun, thank you for the information. Judging from the things you write and the story about the romantic poetess, I think your father must have been a very wise man. Hardship often provides great insights.
Knowing that you do not celebrate Christmas let me wish you a season of warmth and celebration of family and friendships.
Rodney - I shared this post with my daughters and just heard back from LeeAnn - she found this "nice and evocative.
I re-read the post and found it wonderful for the rememberance of fun; funny and family togetherness. How great it is that you have the memory and of a Christmas - that is the star for your Christmas tree.
I thought this was so delightful, Rodney.
What a wonderful story, Rodney. These are the kind of simple life events that time can’t erase. Thank you for sharing them with us and Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Anne, that sounds so LeeAnn. I say that fondly. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece.
Dale, thanks for reading and commenting. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
I was there when my oldest granddaughter figured the Santa Claus myth out. We ran short of Christmas present one year, and thinking that the grand kids would never notice, wrapped presents from Santa and Mimi in the same paper. After opening all of the presents from Santa and being handed the first present from her grandmother she looked up at us and you could see the wheels turning in her head. Her mother said, "you just figured it out didn't you?" "Yep"
Miguela, like the fire? ( "The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is "so delightful".) I enjoyed your Christmas piece a lot. Glad you liked mine.
This was so great that I had to read it to my kids. Thanks for a new Christmas tradition!
Jennifer, how wonderful! It makes me feel very good to know that you thought that much of the story. I hope your kids enjoyed it. Merry Christmas.
My 6 year old daughter, Eliza, says to tell you, "It was AWESOME! I liked the chicken feet sack part. I'm sorry you were so poor, but it seems like you had a good life. Merry Christmas to you! How old are your granddaughters?"
Jennifer, my granddaughters range from 19 down to a little under 3. I never felt that we were poor. In fact, I once said that we were rich which got a laugh from my father and the question of how I could think that. "Because we have everything we need." was my answer. I have had a good life.
Very nice story. It reminds me of my mom, who grew up on a farm in Nebraska. My parents had told me how getting oranges was very special and something that didn't happen very often. I was riddled with guilt. I felt so spoiled!
Rodney,your story is heartwarming.
I can relate to it,too,because there was a time when we had the first piece of Marzipan,carefully cut into tiny pieces so everyone could get a taste of it,or the first oranges,too.The first tree with real candles we had when I was about 7.What mattered to me then and still does today,was the atmosphere and the beautiful light in the otherwise dark room.
It is the family gathering that is one of my fondest memories during my childhood.
Thank you for sharing.
I love your thought on justice.
Merry christmas to you and your family.
ManhattanWhiteGirl, thanks for dropping by and commenting. Life in the middle of the last century was different in many ways. Transportation of fruit across country, without an interstate highway system, took longer and was relatively more expensive. I realized half way through re-reading this piece that my mother sewed because clothes were relatively more expensive. We still grew cotton, ginned it, spun it, wove it into cloth, dyed it, and made clothes in this country, paying wages to American farmers and factory workers. And then clothes were sold at a store in your hometown by families who lived in your community. Free trade, China, and WalMart have changed all of that. You shouldn't feel guilty. The system you have inherited makes me feel guilty.
Truer words were never spoken about what Christmas is about. Do you still have the pajamas? Rated.
OMG...My mother used to recycle Xmas paper too..but The pajamas made from chicken feed sacks, is the funniest thing ever. Thanks so much for this and more. Blessing to you and yours.
Love, love, love this! Thank you so much.
I remember the Christmas of '67; 'twas then that I found out Santa was really my mother who'd dressed up to play the part of giver of gifts. She removed the glove covering her left hand and I immediately recognized the ring on her finger and in an instant she noticed my disappointment/disbelief whispering to me, "don't tell anybody about our secret. We don't want to spoil the fun for all the rest."

I, too, recall other kids receiving expensive luxuries but I never once doubted the power of giving and receiving love, by my mother or someone called Santa.
I tell my son and daughter that all I got for Christmas one year were tiny, homemade Barbie clothes for the doll I had gotten the previous Christmas, who had a broken leg and a crutch made out of a tree branch. ... Warm, sweet story. Thanks for reminding us about the true spirit of the holidays.
Wonderful. Surely you know, "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Clause." It not google it and be connected to the better angels of your nature. Why I even wrote a letter to Santa this year and it was answered. Take a look.
wonderful. Just wonderful.

Several of you - Heidi Banerjee, Manhattanwhitegirl, Algis Kemezys, Deborah Mendez-Wilson - have mentioned that your childhood or the childhood of your parents were similar to mine. When I was young my mother told of moving as a child from the Ozarks to western Oklahoma in a horse drawn wagon. My brother didn't (doesn't) have much tolerance for history. He would always say, "Is this going to be one of your covered wagon stories?" I was always fascinated by them.

To all of you, this Christmas Eve, be safe and warm and enjoy what you have and those around you.
a great story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i love the way you describe your background

My mom could not afford the 49 cent cookies, only the 39 cent ones; their is something cool about hunting your own food; our love of consumerism is becoming a sickness