By Pennee Murphree, former Arizona cotton, wheat and alfalfa farmer
Visiting my grandparents in Gilbert, Iowa, was always fun, but Christmas Day was really exciting. Dinner would be cooking on a wood stove when we and my aunts, uncles and cousins arrived. Grandma was a great cook so with Mom, Auntie Donna, Auntie Fritz and Auntie Berneta chipping in to help, dinner was soon on the table. It was always a sit down dinner around the dining room table where another stove warmed the room as well as a simple prayer of thanks to our Lord.
Gifts were simple and often homemade, and never opened until we all pitched in to clean up the dinner dishes. Then we would gather in the living room, usually curtained off with quilts for the winter, but opened up on Christmas Day. Under the simple Christmas tree in my child-like eyes were what seemed like hundreds of gifts. The same tie that got passed around every year and went from family to family, matching bath robes for me and the two cousins my age made by my Aunt Donna, a can of tobacco for my great grandfather, Grandpa Ross, homemade doll clothes for last year’s doll. An orange, homemade cookies, popcorn balls and peppermint candy were favorites too, but the laughs, the jokes and the hugs of thanks were the best.
And eventually we all made it out to play in the snow, building a snow fort or throwing snowballs. Sometimes my dad would hook up a sled to the back of a tractor and pull us around until it was to cold to continue. I think we were poor but I didn’t know it.