Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 1951

Flora had some last minute shopping to do before going to Arnwood to help Mum with Christmas Eve cooking, so Walt came home for a few minutes in the afternoon to pick them up. He was working at the store on Main Street today. She told Billy to call and remind him, and watched as Billy asked the operator for 409, which was the Singer store number. He knew that number and their home number (5329-M). She noticed again that when he put the heavy black phone receiver to his left ear he immediately switched it to his right. She was going to have to ask Dr. Spino about this.

Doris who answered the phone told Billy that Walt was already on his way. Billy went to the picture window to watch for the Singer truck. Sometimes he could spot it at the bottom of the hill, at the corner where they got the green city bus to go into town, or the orange bus that took them to Arnwood.

The window was ringed with the new Christmas bubble lights that Walt bought and that Billy and Kathy would sit and watch. Kathy would soon tire of it, since she was not quite two years old, but Billy could sit there watching for a long time. The lights came on when Walt plugged them in, but it took awhile for them to warm up so that the bubbles started moving, and that’s what the kids waited for. There were green, red, yellow, blue and orange lights, and they began bubbling at different times, so the kids had a good time watching them.

She was getting Kathy into a dress when Billy shouted that daddy was home. Soon she heard the front door open and Walt came into the bedroom. She told him they would be just a few minutes. He took off his coat but didn’t hang it in the closet. He draped it over the back of the couch in the living room. He was wearing his good brown suit today because he was working the floor at the store, and he had on a brown tie only because Flora had prevented him from wearing a blue one. His color blindness was only a problem with dark shades, she noticed. He seemed to be in a good mood, but as soon as he got home he always started feeling tired.

Flora succeeded in getting Kathy’s dress, white socks and white shoes on her before she started fussing, but getting her arms into her winter coat was a struggle. Kathy had worn braces on her legs for a very short time, but when she started walking it was clear that she didn’t need them and her legs were healthy and strong. So already this was a happy Christmas.

Flora got Billy into his coat and hat and gloves, and Walt carried Kathy down to the truck. They didn’t have real steps yet, just piles of big rocks that were flat but ridged, and some moved a little when stepped on. Walt and his brothers and one of the neighbors had built the walk last summer, using rocks the bulldozer had scooped along the hill from the street to just beside the house. Someday this would be their driveway, though now it was just dirt on a hard rocky surface. There was a little snow on the ground, but Walt had brushed most of it off the walk with an old broom this morning, and no more had fallen since.

Flora and Billy went around to the passenger side of the gray panel truck with the red Singer insignia on the side. Billy climbed in first, crawling over the seat and down between the two front seats into the back of the truck, where he sprawled on some old blankets. Then Flora stepped up and sat down, while Walt came around and then handed Kathy to her.

The road down the hill passed bunches of trees and a scattering of houses, then the gas station and the Hudson-Nash showroom, until they came to the corner of Hamilton and West Newton Street, where the many houses were close together and the city of Greenbriar really began. The first few blocks of West Newton Street past the Hamilton corner, still lined with trees but now just a stately single column of them, was a mix of some big stone houses and other smaller wood frame ones, all of them built many years before the war.

Then West Newton Street merged with Pittsburgh Street at the top of the hill that led deeply down and then sharply up like a roller coaster dip, cresting at Main Street, before another steep drop on the other side. There were fewer trees as they started down the hill but they were very tall and pretty. Rich looking, Flora thought. She noticed a little snow on the large rolling lawns in front of the big stone buildings, formerly the mansions of the town’s rich coal barons before they left town altogether, now converted to funeral parlors and the headquarters of an insurance company. There wasn’t much snow, but enough to ensure this would be a white Christmas.

No comments: