Today, January 18th, is Evelyn June Laufer Taylor’s 92nd birthday—Congratulations! Evelyn is the wife of Bryant Calkins Taylor who was the son of Floyd Taylor, twin of Lloyd. Bryant also had a January Birthday—on the 26th, he too would have been 92 years old.
Bryant and Evie Taylor
Evelyn answered my call last month when I asked about Christmas stories, memories or traditions. As she wrote: “Christmas is a favorite theme for me. In fact, I made up a booklet several years ago of our eventful Christmases past for the kids.”
So before I put away ALL of my Christmas decorations until next December (I still have up my Nativity set), here is one last look at Christmases past with some of Evelyn’s memories:
Bryant and I, when we had our children, redesigned our Christmas traditions, taking from both of our childhood ones and tailoring them to our present circumstances.
Since I had always had to go to my paternal grandparents’ on Christmas Eve, we decided to always be at home for the kids to really anticipate Santa’s arrival. Also, our toy store was open until 6 PM on Christmas Eve, making a long and tiring day with many personal things to finish up after the kids went to bed.
Our traditional Christmas Eve supper was oyster stew for Bryant and me, tomato soup for the kids, cranberry molded Jello (red) salad, lime and pineapple molded Jello (green) salad, quick breads, ice cream with strawberries and Christmas cookies.
On Christmas morning we opened our stocking presents in our robes, got dressed, made our beds, and had breakfast of juice and coffee cake shaped like a wreath. Santa’s unwrapped gifts had already been discovered by the kids before the stockings and exclaimed over. Finally, we started on the regular gifts. The youngest one started by picking out one and giving it out. After it was opened and often passed around to see, that person picked the next one.
As this could take quite a while, we had snacks and time-out to play and savor what we had. At 4 o’clock both sets of grandparents arrived for dinner and to see the gifts and enjoy the action and excitement of the children.
Each set of grandparents had a Christmas for the family with their own traditions. For the Laufer’s, we went there the Sunday before Christmas, and The Taylors always celebrated New Year’s weekend when their other son and family came from Ohio.
In this way no family had to give up its family traditions. It was great to have three Christmases and three special dinners!
THE HOBBY HORSE SHOP
(Toys discounted up to 50% off)
It took planning to run a toy store in the basement of your home. It affected the whole family. Since December hours were 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM, six days a week with a 6:00 PM closing Christmas Eve, we laid out a schedule to get things done on time.
We shopped out of catalogs for gifts other than toys in October. On October 12, Columbus Day and a school holiday, the kids and often neighbor kids frosted the already baked cut out cookies to be frozen and not eaten until Dec. 24th.A couple of times the kids helped make other kinds, but finally it was easier to do those by myself. I also made and froze Christmas wreath coffee cakes for Christmas breakfast and gifts for friends.
After Thanksgiving, all Christmas cards were written and stamped and gifts wrapped before December. Bryant also sent out desk calendars to all his insurance clients and we all helped get those addressed and stamped.
The month of December was difficult for the kids as we were too busy to have family time. We wanted to give the store a holiday atmosphere, so Christmas records were played continually (only had about 12 in our repertoire). However, our record player was upstairs -- part of the TV console, and we piped the music to the downstairs. It took lots of concentration for the kids to watch TV with carols always present and the volume not low enough to be called "background music."
On one of these Christmas Eves during the store years, Bryant and I were still downstairs finishing up some things for the kids. All of a sudden we heard a loud thud above us. We rushed upstairs to find our 14-year-old Collie, Fleet, had had a stroke. Frantically, we called the veterinarian who said to protect her from hurting herself and see how she is in the morning. She could not stand; her eyes were crossed. We stayed up most of the night, caring for her as we would a child; she was our first "child" as we had her before we had any children. On Christmas day she was still alive, but the vet would not come to put her to sleep until the next day.
It was so painful for all of us to watch her suffer -- panting, not eating, unable to stand all Christmas day and night. It was so difficult to be "Merry." All of us felt this sadness, but the children did not realize what was ahead of us. The next day the vet gave her the injection as Bryant held her head and I held her paw. The last movement I saw was the final wag of her tail.
In 1954 my mother, Hazel Laufer, died in October, so Dad had come to spend the holidays with us. It was business as usual because of the toy store. However, this year it was difficult for me to think of having "Christmas as usual." Nevertheless, for our three children and Dad, I attempted to eliminate nothing.
On Christmas Eve, the turkey was stuffed, ready to go into the oven early the next morning. Our store closed at six o'clock, and only last minute gift-wrapping had to be done. Everything seemed to be going as smoothly as could be. Suddenly, I became nauseated and was sick all night long. Christmas morning I managed to get through the stocking and gifts, showing enthusiasm for the sake of the children but feeling so tired and weak.
Bryant put the turkey in the oven at the proper time. Then he and Dad set the table, peeled potatoes, following the schedule I always make for myself, while I feebly guided them from the sidelines. However, when it came to making the gravy, the fellows drew a blank, so I sat at the kitchen table, head propped up on my hand and tried to explain how to do it (gravy-making has never been my forte), so this was no easy task.
If only Mom had been there to hold my head and take over the Christmas dinner. I missed her then -- and miss her still!