My wife’s grandmother, Elaine Harris, has lived in Evanston, Wyoming, all her life, except for a brief period during the Depression, when lack of work at home forced her parents–my wife’s great-grandparents, John and Dorothy Martin–to relocate their family to Bountiful (technically Woods Cross) in search of employment. It was there, seventy years ago this Christmas, that Grandma Elaine….but wait: she should tell the story. It is, after all, her own.
In 1938 I was eight years old living in Woods Cross, Utah, with my parents and two brothers, Mike and Jack. I was attending an elementary school in the area and loved every day. At this age, I thought school was wonderful and exciting and looked forward to each day with joy. I had many little friends in Woods Cross. The teachers was beautiful and kind to all the children.
December that year came with great excitement as we all looked forward to the Christmas play. We all had exciting parts and were to be dressed in our very best clothes. I had two beautiful Sunday dresses Mother had made for me earlier in the year. I had to choose the one I would wear for the play. As time went on I discovered that one of the girls in the class didn’t have a nice dress because her family was too poor to make her one. I became very sad for her.
One day as I went home I asked my mother, Dorothy Martin, if I could giver her one of my best dresses. Mother hesitated, then said that if that was what I really wanted to do, she would let me. I was to choose the dress I would give away and the one I was to keep. I remember how very happy I was as I chose the dress and mother and I delivered it to the little girl’s home. Now she could be in the play in a beautiful dress with all the rest of us. I do not know how the girl felt, but I felt a warm joy inside me for a long time after that. That Christmas lingers in my mind longer than any other in my life.
In the spring of 1999 I went to see my mother. She had become more and more sick in the recent months, and I needed to know something. I asked if my childhood memory was correct: did I really give away one of my Sunday dresses when I was eight years old? She looked at me with sad eyes as she remembered the event. Yes, she said, you did. She told me how sad she felt as we gave the dress away because she didn’t have the money to replace it. I said, “Mother, why did you let me do it? I was only a child–why didn’t you stop me?” Then she told me I had my heart set on helping this little girl, and that it seemed the right thing to do at Christmastime.
Today, as I write this story of my life [December, 1999], tears of gratitude run down my face for a wonderful, kind mother who would sacrifice so much for her children. I hope all my posterity will enjoy and learn from this Christmas story: a story of a child’s naive love, and of the mother who cared for her enough to let her lovingly give that which was not wholly hers to give.
(Elaine Harris and Dorothy Martin, before great-grandmother’s passing in September 1999.)