Christmas of 1944 is a memory that often comes back to me, especially around the holidays. My mother, like many women of that time, worked in a defense factory in another city and state. I was five years old and my sister was my caretaker most of the time, except in the rare times on weekends and holidays, when Mama came home.
As Christmas approached, we expected her home for the holidays, but the weather turned bad and snow and ice covered everything. Roads were slick and even though cars crawled, occasionally one slid off the road.
In my childish mind, I knew Mama would make it home because “she’s coming on a big bus, and they always make it through.” But day after day passed with no sign of Mama. Finally I approached my sister with my worries, “When is Mama going to be here?” She hesitated a moment, then replied, “Well, the buses haven’t been able to get through because of the snow storm, so she might not be able to make it for Christmas.”
My heart sank. Christmas without Mama? That just wouldn’t be Christmas! My sister noticed my sad face and quickly said, “But you know if there’s any way to get here, Mama will find it.” From then on I tried to keep that thought in my mind, but “she might not be able to make it for Christmas,” kept echoing and pushing it away. At night, I cried into my pillow, asking God to please take the storm away so Mama could come home.
Finally, it was Christmas Eve. We went to church and heard the choir sing “Silent Night,” and “Oh Holy Night,” but by this time I was having none of it! I didn’t feel at all thankful and blessed that Jesus was born, because at least he had his Mama! I was both angry and sad at my situation. We heard no more about Mama’s journey, and I just knew Christmas Day was going to be miserable.
Christmas morning dawned bright and beautiful; sunlight glittering and glistening off the ice covered trees. I’d never seen this before and it was beautiful, but since I didn’t have my Mom I wasn’t so impressed. I got Christmas gifts of course, a new coloring book, crayons, a new doll, a new coat. In those simple days, these made a pretty good Christmas for any child. But they held no charm for me.
As we prepared to sit down to our Christmas dinner, I had no appetite. Of all the wonderful foods we always had on holidays, I wanted none of it. Just then there was a knock on the door. Opening it, we saw our neighbor Ed Martin, with his arms full of gift-wrapped presents. But peeking around from behind him, was the best present of all….Mama was home! I hugged her and hugged her. I couldn’t stop crying and laughing at the same time.
After all the excitement had settled, and I was in Mama’s lap, she told us the story. The bus slid off the highway into a ditch and came to rest with a broken axle, basically out of service. Nobody was hurt, just shaken up, but bitterly disappointed that they’d not make it to their destination for Christmas Day. The bus driver, concerned for his passengers, hailed a passing car and asked him to notify the bus service, so they could send another bus to retrieve the passengers. Ed Martin, our neighbor, was the man driving the car, fresh from picking up his mother from a neighboring town for the holidays. Ed saw my Mom and gave her a ride along with the Christmas gifts. He notified the bus service as soon as he reached town, and everyone was rescued and made it home for Christmas.
Suddenly, sitting in Mama’s lap, the world was such a beautiful place. The sun sparkling off the icy trees looked like a fairy land to the eyes of a five year old little girl. The presents were everything I could ever ask for and I knew that no other child was this happy in all the world. Soon after that, I never had to worry about Christmas Without Mama again, because the war ended and she was home for good.
For keeping family and their memories close, you might like some of these products, available on this page.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR