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Hartselle Enquirer

A Christmas homecoming

The last Saturday before Christmas in 1942 was a happy day for the four children  (ages 9, 7, 5 and 2) of Ermon and Ruby Knight.

A visit from Santa Claus and gifts under the Christmas tree had been on our minds for weeks.  Our hearts danced with joy when we learned our parents were going to Gadsden to do some Christmas shopping.

We had been reminded that our nation was fighting a war and so much of its manpower and resources were being used for that purpose. Santa’s workshop was now using wood instead of metal to make most of its toys and Mrs. Claus had barely enough sugar to sweeten Santa’s coffee much less enough to make the cookies she had on her Christmas baking list.

As bleak as the outlook was, it didn’t stop us kids from turning to the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog repeatedly and count the many ways it could make our fondest Christmas wishes come true.

Huddling us under her wings, our mother told us of the plans for the day.

“Your father and I will be catching the bus in the morning and returning in the afternoon,” she said. “While we’re away, you’ll stay with our neighbors and you can enjoy spending the day playing with their children.”

“We said our goodbyes the next morning and watched them walk to the bus stop one-half mile away.
“When will they be back?” asked our two-year-old brother.”

“Don’t worry,” the rest of us answered.” They’ll be back before you know it.”

With that said, they were out of sight and out of mind and we were off to play some of our favorite games—hide and seek, marbles, hop scotch, play school and dodge ball. We ate a quick lunch and returned to our games.

The fun time was gone by late afternoon and our attention turned to where our parents were and when were they coming home?

We began to panic when we realized it was getting dark and our parents were nowhere in sight.

“What are we going to do?” asked our older sister. “I want my mama and daddy,” our two-year-old brother cried out.

We’d‘ better get home before it gets any darker,” I suggested. “That’s where they’d want us to be when they get home.”

Scared senseless and clinging to each other, we stumbled, fast-walked and ran .200 yards through the woods until we reached our house. In the absence  of a phone or any other way to reach our parents, we jumped into bed and covered our heads…It seemed like hours before we heard the front door open  and we jumped out of bed to meet them with open arms.

“What kept y’all so long,” our sister asked.

“We had to wait at the bus station for several hours because there were so many soldiers waiting for a bus to get home for Christmas,” our mother answered. “We were so worried about you children and so happy you’re safe.”

Later, we realized it was not the tinsel on the tree, the ribbon on the packages or their contents that made that Christmas special. It was having our family together, safe and happy.

 

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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