This is the day when we would gather boxes of home canned vegetables and fruit, gingerbread and applesauce, blackberry jam and loaves of banana nut bread, black walnuts and homemade fudge, loaves of white bread, fruitcake and lace trimmed aprons all made mostly by Ninna. We had been saving boxes all year long.
The gifts would be in boxes because they were going to whole families over the river and across the mountain to the southern side of the county. Dad would load the truck and mom would make sure each box was carefully covered in oiled canvas (oilcloth) so no moisture could reach the gifts. The oilcloth was old table cloths that had become faded and Mom saved through the year to use over the Christmas boxes. Dad and I would bundle up because the heat in the old truck was iffy at best and the trip would take most of the day.
It was to homes of distant relatives and old friends, some with no nearby kinfolk, several widowed, and most old and sickly, that we were going, taking only needful things as Christmas gifts. My contribution was Little Golden Books if the gifts went to homes where there were young children. Sometimes when I could talk Dad into drilling tiny holes through acorns I gathered, I'd string them on leftover scraps of yarn and add them to the gift box. Dad called them my squirrely days when I gathered acorns but old women surely loved my acorn necklaces. My job was to label each box with the name of the recipient and to mark the names off my list as the gifts were delivered.
There were a few times when we took a quilt to a family, it was cold and not everyone had warm homes, Ninna told me. And if we had nothing else, we had an abundance of quilts. They were always happy quilts, quilts made from scraps of my homemade clothes and lined with the softest flannel. They had no set pattern, but they surely were warm. Ninna said it was the least she could do since she had a family who took care of her, and it was her way of sharing all that she had.
Of course upon seeing a quilt in her box, every old woman would say, "Oh no, I can't accept this quilt, it's too good for me," in protesting tears. And I would then tell them about each piece of cloth that was used to make the quilt.
"This one right here was my school pinafore and this here was the skirt I wore to picnics and this one was the blouse for Sunday church but I outgrewed them." I was so proud that my family could sew and that I had contributed my old clothes. Many people couldn't. Ninna would get that old treadle sewing machine out and open it up; that sewing machine would be churning all day long between Thanksgiving and Christmas, just making aprons or tea towels or piecing together squares to be made into a lap quilt to keep other Grannies warm.
A few times, if she was all caught up, Ninna said she'd like to make that trip with us, and we'd scrunch together in the seat of the old truck and begin the long journey over the mountain. The homes we visited were all along that narrow winding road. Those who lived on the right side of the road got their gifts first and those on the left got theirs on our way back home. We'd stop somewhere at about mid point and eat a bite of lunch that we'd packed for ourselves and with that done, we'd be on our way to deliver to the other side of the road.
My pay for all the hard work was a peppermint stick, a large one that was big enough to last over many miles and many hours. I loved that peppermint stick and it was a treat to see how long I could make it last. It was truly a good to the last crumb candy stick.
We don't think much about doing things like that today. It probably is one of those things that's not politically correct, but that doesn't make it less special that we did it then. It was a truly good time.