In the farming community of Rowan, Iowa, when I was a child, Christmas was focused first on the school program, usually an all-school operetta or play where each child took part, and then on the church service on Christmas Eve.
The choir provided special music and again, each child of the congregation, either spoke a "piece" or had a role in the pageant. After the service, Santa handed each child a small bag of hard candy and an orange as we headed sleepily home.
In 1950 when I was 10 years old, it was very cold in December, but there hadn't been much snow. Our farm was as busy as usual, with milk cows, hogs, sheep and chickens to care for. As the youngest in the family, I was kept busy with chicken chores and gathering eggs, while my mother and sisters frantically were baking, cleaning and doing mysterious sewing projects.
A week before Christmas, my dad gave me strict orders not to go near the hog barn to disturb the sows and piglets. I was afraid of the hogs anyway, so I never wondered what might be in there that I wasn't supposed to see.
At last it was Christmas morning! There was a sprinkling of snow on the ground, but it was more anticipation than cold that had us shivering as we sat down to breakfast.
Our family rule was that all the chores had to be done, breakfast eaten and the dishes done before we could go in to the tree in the living room to open gifts. So I was hopping from one foot to the other getting in the way of the dish wipers and wishing that everyone would HURRY UP! Our dad had finished the milking and had come in to shed his heavy coat and boots. It had to be time for presents!
No ... one more chore: I had to feed Wiggles our outdoor dog who got the breakfast leftovers. I pouted and whined, but finally had to stomp wrathfully out to the back door with a dish of scraps. And when I yanked open the door, there stood my heart's desire, a new pony waiting just for me.
Alice Brook was born and raised in Iowa. She worked as an administrative officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Anchorage, Alaska.