One of the nice things about our childhood was that we never knew we were poor. There were lots of other people in the same boat we were in, albeit our boats were all springing leaks at regular intervals. When our dad was in law school, we lived in army barracks with other families who had someone in attendance at The University of Chicago. There were lots of kids to play with and lots of mothers for Mother to drink with, so all was “well.”
We celebrated Christmas and had presents just like everybody else we knew. Looking back, the sacrifice our dad made so we could celebrate the holidays was immense. Never one to complain, he made sure we had a beautifully decorated tree with what seemed to us a ton of presents.
One of our favorite photos is of my sister Abby and me standing in front of our tree with several of our presents in our little arms. We look cute in a Pitiful Pearl sort of way. We are dressed in cotton dresses (in Chicago in the dead of winter!). We look like war orphans but are truly oh so happy!
We have always loved Christmas. Our dad made sure we understood the meaning of the holidays. It wasn’t just about the food, presents, decorations, or music. It was about family and being together.
The fact that Mother was somewhat calm no doubt had everything to do with the amount of wine she consumed. It was one of the rare days in our lives when we did not have to endure her usual meltdowns. Thanks to the liquor, her mood-swings took a break for the holidays!