Christmas on the farm. I remember Christmas, the wonder of the tree and how presents seemed to overflow the room on Christmas morning. I had 10 siblings in a five bedroom â one bathroom farmhouse. We had central heat â one big heat register in the middle of the floor of the main room that served as living room on one end and dining room on the other. I remember getting up on cold winter mornings and running downstairs to huddle over the only source of warmth in the house, along with several siblings. It was fun to watch the nightgowns puff out as the warm air filled them. It didnât take long to get the chill off, and then weâd be out and about, only coming back to that source to warm stiff toes and fingers. I remember the smell as the snow melted off the wool mittens laid on the grate to dry. It was about 2â square â I donât remember for sure, and it was heavy. It was dark when you looked down, and I remember being afraid that I would fall in when someone opened the grate to retrieve something that had fallen through to land on the screen right below it. I donât ever remember believing in Santa, but we always got a few presents with that name on the âfromâ part of the tag. We all knew they were really from Mom and Dad, or the Grandparents. When I was little, only my Motherâs parents were still with us, so for me there was always only one Grandma and one Grandpa. They were both very industrious, gardening and crafting. So it wasnât uncommon to get a gift that the Grandparents helped out with. We also made gifts for each other. Money was always short, so shopping included buying supplies to make gifts. I remember one sister giving a half made scarf one year, with a note saying to please return it so she could finish it. My mom and Grandmother baked, and baked, and baked. We may not have had expensive fare, but it seemed there was always fresh bread, or a kettle of soup on the stove. We lived in a harsh world, though I never knew it. Our toys included sticks and boards nailed together, things we built ourselves or made from the assorted bits and pieces that collect around any working farm. I loved my Dadâs shop, probably more than my momâs sewing room. We knew what pretend was â pretend. We could yell âbang, youâre deadâ as we aimed our sticks at each other, but we knew that Dadâs real gun caused real death, and it was not a toy. We learned to have fun and learned to be careful. Actions had consequences, and hurting, well, it hurt!! I remember waking up on Christmas morning. The night before, there had been only a few presents under the tree, but we all expected to find tons of them in the morning. Weâd whisper to each other, and see who was all awake. I remember sharing a bedroom with four sisters, then someone would go and see who was awake in the other three upstairs bedrooms. We knew we could not open presents until Mom said it was ok, but we would sneak downstairs and the lights on the tree would be on, and there would be presents all over the place. Iâve looked at pictures as an adult, but I know when I was little, the room just overflowed with packages in my eyes! The older kids would get the younger ones to peak at the packages, looking to see who they were for. Then we might start stacking them in piles, one for each of us (and there were plenty of us â so that took a while). Sometimes there would be a big present, and we were all excited wondering just what might be inside. We tried to be quite, but my parentâs bedroom was just down the hall, and my Mom never slept through anything â I swear she could smell it if you lit a match anywhere on the property! Some of you may have had Moms you swear had ESP â Iâm sure mine was one of them. It seemed like hours, and finally Mom would get up and tell us it was ok for us to open presents. Then the paper would fly as we tore into our gifts! Sometimes you would get so distracted by someone elseâs special present that youâd momentarily forget yours. One of my favorite gifts was a sewing basket filled with bits and pieces of trim and ribbon, left over from my grandmotherâs projects. There were bits of rickrack and grosgrain ribbon, needles and thread in assorted colors, bead and baubles. To this day, I love stuff like that! We never got a lot for Christmas, but it seemed that each year there was a special gift, something that made you amazed and full of wonder. And I always wondered how Mom and Dad managed to pull it off â where had they hidden all those wonderful things that just showed up under the tree that morning. And most required time and thought â a hand made toy barn, or bead loom. A collection of fabric and patterns for doll clothes. And most of the presents require imagination to bring to their full potential. I knew the ones from âSantaâ werenât really from âSantaâ, but instead I learned that the âfromâ part of the gift was not the important part. You gave gifts to help share the joy of Christmas, not out of some desire for recognition or reciprocity, or obligation. And then we would get dressed in our Christmas best, and head off to Mass, then home to play and eat â and eat - and eat! Chores had to be done, but they were just a daily routine, so you did them with minor complaint, and then returned to the wonderful world of Christmas as a child.