By Jim Norris
Special to the News-Times
One Christmas holiday was spent in East Texas with mother’s family. We stayed with our grandmother Beulah and our great grandmother Molly Kathleen. Molly Kathleen had been born in Ireland and came to America when she was 9. Yet after many years in this country she still spoke with a slight Irish accent. We loved to hear her say Merry Christmas and sing Christmas songs with her soft Irish brogue voice.
At the time, our country was still at war and our grandmother was an administrator of a Military Hospital Home for all service personnel who had been wounded and were sent to the home to go through the rehabilitation process before either returning to active duty or being discharged. Mother’s four brothers, were in various branches of the military and away in war zones around the world. Many years later, when I was in the Navy, sailing over far away oceans, I often thought about what it must have been like for my grandmother to have all of her sons away in various war zones and not knowing where they were or if they would ever return home alive. It was good that she had her all of her daughters, daughter-in -aws and grandchildren with her that particular Christmas.
It was also good to be with all our cousins, but spending another Christmas without our dads did not make for one of our most enjoyable Christmas holidays. However, our mother and our aunts did the best they could to make sure that the children had a happy time, and at all times during the day, one of the mothers could be found playing games with the children.
With national rationing of certain foods and other material items being enforced during the war years, specifically cocoa and sugar, it was difficult for the women to bake all the different cakes, cookies and candies which are usually associated with Christmas holidays. However, since many Christmas holiday miracles have a lot to do with what grandmothers do at Christmas time, it was not surprising that our grandmother somehow appeared one evening with not only enough sugar and cocoa for her baking needs but enough to give to several neighbors for their Christmas sweets. I would never accuse our dear grandmother of larceny but I feel quite certain that some Army quartermaster somewhere came up a little short when counting his inventory of cooking supplies.
I remember mother’s eldest sister, who was a great cook, baking the biggest chocolate cake I’d ever seen. It was four or five layers with very dark rich chocolate frosting. Enough frosting left over for each child to have their own spoon full of chocolate frosting to lick. I also remember that Jimmy Reed and one of our favorite female cousins, took the large mixing bowl, which had been used to mix the frosting, sneaked out side, hid in one of the cars and had their own personal chocolate frosting party. Unfortunately for the both of them they later became nauseated from eating too much of the very rich chocolate and spent the remainder of the day in bed. Naturally, the rest of us children did not feel sorry for them and made sure that we ate our chocolate cake in front of them! I can still see the dark chocolate frosting covering the faces of my cousins.
That holiday season was the last time that mother and her sisters were all together for Christmas. The war would soon be over in eight months or so and families would grow larger and move to far away locations, making it more difficult for everyone to be together during Holidays. There were fewer toys and gifts under the tree that year but no one cared. Just us being together with all our cousins and aunts made for a special war years Christmas.
There will always be holidays when you may not have all the things you want or think you need. But, if you really stop to think about it, what makes a Christmas more special than just being with family and simply sharing a Chocolate cake?
Remember when you were young, it was the believing in the miracles of Christmas, sharing camera moments with your family and the simple things that provided the best fun you ever had.
Christmas is the time everyone should bake a large chocolate cake and share it with everyone in their little world. I promise it will turn out to be one of those happy days in your life that you’ll never forget. Christmas is a time to count our blessings, so share a chocolate cake with those you love this Christmas and while you’re doing so look around the room and your heart will remind you that you’re with your God given blessings.