Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Pickle

Christmas had always been wonderful, but one year, the year of Our Lord 1901, it seemed that all the extra money went for doctor bills.

We lived in Bountiful, Utah.  I was ten years old; Edgar and Cynthia were older than I; then there was Newton, Annie, Eudora, and Edna.  Edna had large blue eyes and light brown hair which hung in curls around her shoulders.  The summer after Edna turned two she hardly saw a well day.  

How mother prayed to her Heavenly Father to bless her to live to womanhood!  In August, another darling dark haired sister was born, named Letitia after her Great Grandmother Jones.  What beautiful babies they were!  But now mother had neither the strength nor time to sew or fix for Christmas as was her custom other years. 

The Storyteller: A 15 year-old Lydia.
She was 10 years-old at the time this story took place
She told us Santa wasn't coming to see us this year, but as Christmas drew near, Edgar wouldn't believe that could be possible.  On Christmas Eve he began to hang the stockings under the mantle in back of the cook stove, in the nice large room which served as our living room as well as our kitchen.  Mother stopped him and told him, "Santa won't come here".  But he answered, "Of course he will.  He's just got to come."  

When she saw that he wouldn't give up, she said in desperation, "Edgar, instead of hanging your stockings up, put a plate on the table for each of you."

Edgar dropped the stockings and we put the plates on the table.  For some reason this gave me hope that we would receive something, and I went to bed happy.

The Parents in this story: Edgar and Cynthia Tuttle
Christmas morning, Edgar was awake first and woke the rest of us.  We hurried and dressed.  Mother got up with us, but Father said, "No, I just can't."  We all went into the room, excited to see what gift Mother had put out for us.  

On each of the plates was a large pickled cucumber.

Tears of disappointment filled my eyes and those of my young brothers and sisters.  I was ten years old, too big to cry, but the tears were there anyway.  I turned to go into the bedroom and hide, when I heard Mother's voice saying, "Children, children, I didn't have anything else, and I just couldn't bear to leave the plates empty."  

Her lovely voice broke, but she went on bravely, "We have a lot to be grateful for."  As she picked up Edna from the baby carriage, the toddler smiled at all of us and Mother continued, "See, we still have Edna who is getting well, and we have another lovely baby sister."

The oldest Tuttle Children:
Edgar (left), Cynthia (right), and baby Lydia (the author) in the chair above them
Just then Father came in carrying Letitia in his arms, and she waved her hands and laughed aloud at us as Father said, "Yes, children, your Mother is right.  We do have a lot to be thankful to our Heavenly Father for, these two lovely babies and plenty to eat, and we are all well.  Mother is regaining her strength and Edna is improving every day."

We just couldn't stand to see Mother feel bad, and all of us went to comfort her.  As she smiled through her tears, ours were forgotten.  "Come, we can be happy anyway," she encouraged.  "A cucumber is better than nothing.  Let's play a game with them."
The oldest, Edgar, who found the dime
The merriment almost became a rough house, and one of the children bumped into the table.  

As Edgar grabbed for his plate so it wouldn't fall to the floor, he cried out, "Who says Santa didn't come.  LOOK!"  

And there on the table by his plate lay a dime.  He picked it up and ran for his coat, hollering, "Be back soon.  I'm going for some candy!"

Of course the stores were all closed, but Jed Stringham's Grocery Store was by his home.  

Edgar knocked on Jed Stringham's door and Jed himself opened the door.  Edgar looked up at him and said, "Forgive me for disturbing you this Christmas day, but all Santa left was this dime, and I hope you will open your store and sell me a dime's worth of candy so I can take it home to those little ones."

Jed closed the door behind him and said, "You bet I will.  Come."

The Jed Stringham Grocery Store
Jed Stringham (left) and one of his sons (right)
We had the morning work all done and everything ready for dinner by the time Edgar returned.  He came in holding a bag of candy high above his head, his eyes shining as he exclaimed, "Look, Jed took a scoop from each tray of his candy, from hard tack to his very best!  He gave it to me saying, 'Take this dime's worth home to those little ones, and enjoy some yourself. Mother, he was great!  I wouldn't have received that much if it had been just hard tack."

I heard Mother say, "God bless Brother Stringham" .

Jed Stringham
After dinner, we cleared the table and all sat around to listen to Mother tell the story of the First Christmas.  Letitia was on Father's lap and Edna with Mother.  Edgar put a nice handful of candy by each of us.  Mother was a wonderful storyteller, you could just live the story as she told it.  She told us that since that First Christmas, we celebrate Jesus' birth by giving gifts one to another and calling the day Christmas in memory of the Christ child.  

For a few moments all was quiet, the babies lay asleep.  Father rose with Letitia and laid her in her bed and told Edgar to take Edna and lay her down for Mother.  

As they returned, Mother's voice rose clear and sweet as she sang the Christmas song we all loved..."Silent Night!  Holy Night!"  

Lydia as a grown woman, mother and grandmother
Then she turned and said, "Now Father, come sing this with me."  

It is the only song I remember Father singing, although he followed well with Mother on this one.  They sang the first verse of "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."

A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer Nay. 
I had not power to ask his name
Whereto he went or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love, I knew not why.

When they were finished, we turned our chairs in a circle and Father led in family prayer.

While the babies took their nap, the rest of us children went out on the frozen snow for a sleigh ride, knowing it had indeed been a wonderful Christmas.

The First Christmas Present: The Christ Child
Merry Christmas to all my Darlings.  

May your Christmas be wonderful, and may your testimonies [of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ] grow each day, and may we walk in the straight and narrow way all our days.

- Lydia Tuttle Atkin

This account was abridged from all the versions of the story in Lydia E.T. Atkin's personal history and other writings, by her granddaughter, Donna G. Littleford Ramos.  It was recently told in abbreviated form at the 2014 First Presidency Christmas Devotional by Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the current Young Women General President, and a descendant of Jed Stringham.
#LDS, #Christmas, #ChristmasPickle #Bonnie Oscarson, #Jed Stringham

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marianne, you did a wonderful job!!
I love all the pictures you used!
Merry Christmas! --Donna