I confess to feeling a bit melancholy of late. 'Tis the Yule season, after all. Everywhere I walk in our bustling mill and factory town of Amesbury people are getting ready to celebrate the Christ's birthday. Surely no town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decorates in a more festive style than do we.
Green garlands loop over windows. Red balls and bows adorn even the carriage traces. Ladies and girls sport green and red garments, with beribboned holiday hats and fancy dress slippers. White candles in windows light up the dark nights.
So why do I profess unhappy sentiments? I am a teenaged Quaker mill girl with a secret longing for just a touch of frippery. How I would love to wear a lacy cuff on a stylish frock and a colored feather in a smartly trimmed hat.
|Photo by Edward Gerrish Mair|
And so imagine my surprise when I awoke on the twenty-fifth of Twelfth Month, 1888, to find five packages wrapped in red paper and tied with curly green ribbon on our kitchen table. They were labeled with my sister's and my names and those of my three brothers.
My aunt Rose, the midwife, who lives with us since my mother's death a year ago, stood at the stove stirring the cornmeal porridge with a tiny smile playing about her lips.
"Rose, did thee..." I began to ask after I recovered from my surprise.
Now beaming, she held up her hand. "I believe a man in red stopped by late last night."
My mouth dropped open. "Santa Claus? But--"
She beckoned me closer. "Don't tell the younger ones," she whispered, but his middle name was David."
I covered my mouth and giggled. Her handsome beau - not a Friend - was David Dodge of Newburyport.
The twins, little Betsy, even eleven-year old Luke, all were charmed by their candy and gift, as was I. And we had a bit more holiday cheer, as it turned out, when David came in the large Dodge carriage that afternoon to fetch the entire family away for Christmas dinner.
Readers: what was your biggest Christmas surprise?