One who has visited the old Dobson Homestead at Gilbert remarked to me that it seems like an enchanted place. It certainly is for me, but I didn’t know others could sense it. I call it enchanted because the voice of the past speaks there.
Many years ago I saw a made-for-tv Christmas movie in which a distraught woman dreams that she returns to visit her deceased mother during holiday preparations at the old family home. I only saw the movie once (showings seem to be rare), but the premise – spending time in the company of a loved one who has departed this life -- made a lasting impression on me. Through the miracle of online research I was able to identify the movie as The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story (1983). The same research also revealed that the movie was based on the novella, The Silent Stars Go By, by Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881-1954), a worthy author included in my “women in pioneering” study.
Well, in my imagination, I like to slip back into Grandma Ina’s house, especially at holiday time. Like the departed one in the movie, Ina’s presence is remote. We don’t really communicate because, after all, Ina is a figment of my imagination. Based on what I know of her, I just love picturing the simple Christmas that brought her so much joy in the dark days of winter, and I think I enjoy this flight of fancy because I was never a part of it. I have no memory of it, so it isn’t personal.
This exploration of the past which I share here has become an important part of my holiday celebration. This year I’m celebrating “Christmas with Ina 1936.” I’ll quote family letters and also explore a December 1936 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Though based in the same year, these two sources are certainly not the same presentation of the holidays. For a while I struggled with that, but then I decided a contrast of Ina’s simple celebration on the farm with a more cosmopolitan celebration of the same era might be interesting. I can’t really say how this story will unfold since I mostly write as I go. You will undoubtedly see again quotes that have become familiar on this blog, and we’ll also share real-time experiences. I only wish I could give you a cup of tea and a Christmas cookie. KW
[The postcard is from Vance's collection. The picture is of the family's Christmas tree lit with candles in 1921. Any lighting of the tree was always with candles, and we still have the candle holders.]