Part 1 of 3
It would be years later before I would understand the events that happened during the few days leading up to the Christmas of 1958 and especially Christmas Day.
For me, life was simple. My routine stayed pretty much the same every day.
Even though I lived in North Florida known for its sunny days and beaches. Wintertime brought on cold weather, especially the winter of 1958. Temperatures that year would dip into the teens and a lot of folks had busted water pipes.
I remember clearly those bitter cold days, not so much because it was unusual weather; I remember it because of what was happening in our home.
At 7 years old, Christmas was an exciting time for me. The year before Santa Claus had visited our house. He was dressed in his red suit and long white beard; as a 6-year-old I was both terrified and excited at the same time.
I knew it was Santa Claus and that he brought gifts, but that did not keep me from hiding behind a chair in the living room. My parents finally coaxed me out and somehow talked me into having my picture taking with him.
My being scared was soon forgotten when I found out he had brought me and my brother Eddie a bag full of toys.
So, for the Christmas of 1958, I was sure Santa Claus was going to make another visit. This time I would not be scared and planned on welcoming him with open arms.
A week before Christmas, my father had a heart attack – one of the many he would have before he passed away in January of 1970. At the time, I had no idea what a heart attack meant other than he was not home and in the hospital. They didn’t allow children to visit people in the hospital, so Rosa Lee, a neighbor, stayed with us when our mother visited Dad.
My brother had been born two-and-a-half months premature. He was born in November and did not come home until February. His first three months were spent in an incubator at the hospital. Once Eddie was brought home, everything changed for me.
I had been an only child and now Eddie got every one’s attention. His first few years were filled with sickness and trying to keep him alive.
Eddie was prone to pneumonia and a couple of days before Christmas he went back into the hospital. I found out when I got out of bed and was met by Rosa Lee when she heard me getting up that morning.
Like good neighbors were in those days, she was more than willing to help out. She told me that my mother had taken Eddie to the hospital during the night.
Even though Rosa Lee was there, I felt so alone as I dressed standing by the large kerosene heater we had in the living room. I remember sitting on the couch crying, thinking as a 7-year-old would think, that I was all alone and missing my mother.
To be continued...
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at email@example.com.