As close as I can remember, it was 1944. My dad was somewhere on a ship in the south Pacific, and my mom and I were living with my grandmother in Greeley, Colorado. I don’t recall the street address, because after all I was only three or four years old. But my earliest memories are of this age of three or four. The hospital was up the hill from our house on the same side of the street. It must have been a busy street because I wasn’t allowed to cross. So, my one and only play-mate had to stand across the street where I would yell, “Little boy, can you come over and play with me?” His name was Tommy Butterwick, and though miles would eventually separate us, we kept in touch until we were in high school. Over the years he remained in Greeley, but I was moved with my parents to many different states.
I recall that my grandmother’s house sat in the middle of the block. It must have been on a hill because I remember riding my tricycle from my house to the neighbor’s and falling off, probably skinning my knee as I tumbled down the hill. The house itself was a small, white adobe. In my memory I see a green wicker rocking chair that occupied the front room. The chair is memorable because my grandma sat with me in that chair reading “The Billy Goats Gruff”. I knew the story by heart and I loved it. I can’t imagine why because it is a book with a scary troll. Never the less it was my favorite.
Another early memory I have is Christmas. Sometime in the very early morning or perhaps it was night because it was dark outside, I slipped out of my bed and went searching for the presents left by Santa. He did not disappoint. The only gift that apparently mattered was a white wicker doll buggy with little round windows in the bonnet. I ran around the house yelling at the top of my voice. It was sheer delight for me but I’m pretty sure my grandmother and mother didn’t appreciate the hour.
I wish I could tell you what happened to that buggy, wishing that I still had it. I do have one thing that survived those years. It was a gift from my dad. In my young mind I see him sitting in that green rocker handing out gifts from his duffle bag on the day he returned from the Navy. It is a little ladder-back chair he made from mahogany with my name carved on the seat. There are other names carved in it now, but they were added when my children were born.
Treasures from my past; I love my chair, but wouldn’t it be great if I still had that buggy.
“A Visit From St. Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, was published in 1823.