Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Locket

We were just little kids…all of us.
Christmas was coming and as usual…we wanted to make some money to buy Mom a gift. Of course, we had to decide what the gift would be …but first things first…we needed money!
We pooled our resources and came up with only a few bucks .. that would never do … but .. we had done this before. We had a few ideas to make a few more dollars.
First, there was our regular Christmas pinecone business. Well, maybe not quite a business … but it was our usual little money making venture at this time of year. We would hike up the hills behind our streets … probably a few miles, and cut off some perfect little branches containing pine cones. We also gathered all the largest, perfect, individual cones we could find. I can’t imagine my little brother going at that time .. he was pretty small …but can’t say for sure. All of us went anywhere and everywhere … and all alone. Seemed no big deal in those days. Most kids did and most parents thought nothing of it. Not that we were stupid .. we knew to always stay together, and to never speak to strangers … and scream like a banshee if anybody tried anything … not to mention rocks, sticks, etc .. in actuality I pity anybody who tried to mess with us. We were kind of wild …..
When we got the pinecones home, we would lay them out on sheets of newspapers, paint glue on the tips with a little paintbrush and then shake some silver glitter on to each of them. Even in those days I was pretty penurious … well, we had to be … there was no money for fun stuff. Mom showed us how to conserve our glitter … shaking it off onto the paper and pouring it back into our little bowl from the fold of the paper. Waste not, want not, she always said. We learned that and plenty more from our Mom.
On the single cones we would tie a ribbon or a thread so that it could be hung as a decoration … we charged only about 10 cents apiece for those. The branches were more … but honestly, I can’t remember how much we dared to ask. We would stack them in our big red wagon and trundle off down the street to sell our festive cones and branches to neighbours. We always worried that people would think the price too high and would not want them .. but we always sold out immediately and had to go back up the hill to get more. I think some of the women looked forward to our fresh cut boughs each year. Or … it could have been that we sent our tiny little brother to the door in front of the rest of us … knee high to a grasshopper he was, and just as silent. We rarely had to go more than a few blocks to sell out repeatedly, but at those prices it took quite a while and lot of pinecones for it to add up to any amount.
Dad was our other source of income… but …. it definitely did not come easy. We would help clean the barbershop on many a Sunday, and, before Christmas … it used to get a super thorough “going over” because we were asking for the big bucks. We would each get $2.00 for the day. I think dear old Dad used to like using the opportunity to teach a lesson or two … his favourite being ……. ”money doesn’t grow on trees you know”.
In those years … $2.00 each did become a sizeable chunk of change. But, we certainly worked very diligently for a very full day to get that amount. Standing on the barber chairs to be able to reach the overhead lights and dusting on top of them; scrubbing and wiping all three big chairs as well as scrubbing all the customer chairs, (with a nail brush as they had vinyl upholstery that was pockmarked with little holes, instead of smooth stuff) polishing and shining many mirrors, washing windows, sweeping, moving all the bottles of lovely smelling hair stuff and cleaning all the counter tops ( every last little cut hair) emptying all the little and large garbage pails … etc … it was a long, LONG day, believe me. But … it was always worth it to add the loot to our stash. Dad would buy us a pop and then we had to sit and wait while he washed and rinsed the whole floor. A grueling day.
Finally we had $20.00 … and, I had seen the gift. A locket at a little jewellery store. I took the other kids to look at it in the window. They all ooohed and ahhhed. That was it. We were getting it. Of course, we had no idea how much it really was yet and I was sure it would be out of our price range … but we had to find out. Wild as we were, we were still pretty shy … especially with adults. So … a few days passed and all of a sudden it was Christmas Eve and I still had not gotten up nerve to go into the store. Off we went to do our shopping for our Dad too; usually socks and soap-on-a- rope …. Old Spice. I know we did look at a few other places for something for Mom (just in case). Checked out several other possibilities …but … ended up back at the jewellery store window. It was dark already … getting near closing time … cold and snowing and we were cold and nervous, but finally, in we went. A very nice lady smiled at us and asked us if we had seen something in the window that we were interested in. I said, “the locket” …as if there was not another one in the whole window …. but, somehow she knew exactly which one I meant. The one with the pink gold rose on it …. She brought it to the display counter and I was the only one tall enough to see it .. she held it down so the other kids could get a good look too. More “oooohhhing” for sure. Three heads turned … they all looked at me. Gulp. “How much is it please”? She turned over the little tag and I could see that it said $29.95. She didn’t say the price, but instead asked me how much money we had to spend. Oh, the hot prickles of disappointment and shame. I had to tell her that we only had $20.00. When I heard, “why, that is exactly the right amount” I couldn’t believe my ears. I could hardly speak; my mouth must have been hanging open. I wanted to grab that little velvet box and run out of the store with it; forget wrapping it … in case she realized her mistake. But, she just smiled right at me, and carefully wrapped it in snow white paper with gold swirls on it….. and put a beautiful gold ribbon on it …. then placed it ever so carefully into a tiny bag engraved with the name of the store. Off we went; on top of the world. Who cared if it was cold and snowing … it was Christmas Eve … we had our precious little gift. We walked the two miles home because we didn’t even have a dime left for the bus. And, all that way I kept wondering how it happened. Had I seen the wrong amount? No. Definitely not. So, why had she done that? Was it going to cost her? In the end I just had to accept that she had done it out of the goodness of her heart. All I knew for sure was that we were the luckiest kids in the world on that particular Christmas Eve …. And that lovely lady was probably just as pleased as we were.


Pauline said...

Hi Vee, that story is gorgeous, loved it, what lovely memories you share with us.

I'd like to wish you a great Christmas


Judi W. said...

Cute story! Everyone is posting similar stories today - just read one about buying a coat for a neighbor boy who couldn't afford one on his own. So lovely and heartwarming! Have a wonder holiday.

Linda Fleming said...

Aw... what a sweet story, Vee. I wish I could have seen your mother's face when she opened her gift and saw the lovely locket. Her heart must have melted not just for the locket but also for the love you kids filled that locket with.

Lisa Kaus said...

Thanks for stopping by-- Have a joyous Christmas!

Vee said...

A poignant story beautifully told. Thank you, Vee. Have a Merry Christmas!

Terra said...

Oh, what a dear little story and kind shopkeeper.
It would have fit in perfectly in the Christmas book I co-authored; you can tell by the title of our book.
"Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts: Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tips to Simplify Your Holiday."