Christmas and the Depressing Depression

Dad grew up during the Great Depression. His grandmother lived with them and from everything he ever told me, she was a tyrant and very mean. Grandma walked with a cane and always had a bag of peppermints in her pocket. One of my dad’s earliest memories was from his childhood, when she would ask Dad if he would like a peppermint. Dad as a child would naturally reply, “Yes,” very readily. Grandma would insist that he come close and when he did, she would whack him with the cane. Like Charlie Brown with the football, he apparently fell for this trick several times.

Charlie BrownOne year, when Dad was five, money was even tighter than it had been. Dad was blissfully unaware of the money problems in the household and was rambling on about all the gifts he wanted Santa to bring. “Listen,” the mean old grandma said:

There’s a Depression on and your parents don’t have any money for Christmas gifts.  There isn’t any Santa Claus and I think you should know that.

Dad was stunned. I don’t really think he expected any marvelous presents. But it was fun for him to look forward to the possibility of Christmas. He always got an orange and some socks on Christmas as a child, but now the magic and the wonder had been taken away from him by this woman whose greatest joy in life was repeatedly tricking a child into coming within striking distance of her cane.

A few years later, when the mean old grandma died, she was laid out in the living room of their home. Dad told me that he insisted on going into the viewing area:

I wanted to make sure she was dead.

I think these and some of the other experiences he went through in his youth are why Dad loved Christmas so much as an adult and why he made sure Lindy and I loved it too. The blessings of family, the fun of togetherness, and the excitement of selecting just the right gift add to the season always.


  1. Mary Berner says:

    Doesn’t this remind all of us how we learned about Santa! Hopefully, it was kinder.

  2. Great post. Terrible grandmother. Thanks for linking to me.

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