Christmas on Mill Street
By: Rosemarie Jackowski
It was December 24, 1914. The smell of cookies baking in the oven of the old coal stove filled the kitchen. Momma had just added another kettle of hot water to the big round metal wash tub. The tub was placed in front of the stove because that was the warmest place in the house.
Brother Stevie and Poppa were outside repairing the chicken coop. Suddenly Poppa came inside. As he brushed the snow off his coat, he whispered something to Momma. It was something about the 'old country' and war. Momma seemed sad and whispered that she would pray for peace. Then Poppa went back outside to finish his work.
Brother Julius had already taken his bath. Now he was sitting on the floor playing with the dog.
Momma said, "Little Tony it's your turn. Get in the tub. You want to be cleaned up for Christmas, don't you?"
Little Tony quickly took off his clothes and hopped into the tub.
Momma was busy taking the cookies off the flat metal baking sheets. Julius rushed up to the table and grabbed one of the cookies. Momma said, "Julius, I saw that. We need to save these cookies for tomorrow."
Little Tony said, "I want a cookie too". Momma said, "Tony, wash your knees. They are still dirty." Tony said, "Momma, can I get out of the tub now? I'm clean. Look, even my toes are all crinkled up. That means I have been in the tub a long time." Momma just smiled. Tony then asked why toes and fingers get crinkled up in the tub. Momma said that it was because the skin absorbs water. Little Tony said that he would have to think about that. He was always asking questions. He wanted to learn as much as he could because he recently had to quit school. He was only eight years old, but now he had to go to work instead of being with the teachers and all of the other kids.
Finally Momma told Tony to get out of the tub. He did. He quickly put on his long underwear and his special sweater. Momma had knitted the sweater for him. It was red with one white sleeve. Momma did not have enough red yarn so she finished the sweater with white yarn instead.
Momma told Little Tony that it was time to go upstairs to bed. He kissed Momma and then he patted the dog on the head and went into the parlor. He quickly pulled off one of his socks and hung it on a small hook on the fireplace. Then he scampered up the steps.
Upstairs he could hear a noise. Bang, bang, bang. Oh, that must be Santa on the roof, Tony thought. He looked out the window. The noise was just the wind blowing on the outhouse door. Bang, bang, bang.
Little Tony knelt by the window. He looked up in the night sky and said a prayer asking God to bless all the children and all of the poor people in the whole entire world. Then he hopped into his bed. He was so excited. Maybe when he woke there would be something from Santa in his sock - maybe even a candy cane. After all, he had been a very good boy. He always helped his Momma and Poppa. Every Saturday he scrubbed the outhouse. Sometimes he would go to a nearby farm and help take care of the horses.
It was very quiet when Tony woke up on Christmas morning. Everyone else was still sleeping. Little Tony climbed out of his bed and quietly tiptoed down the stairs. He peeked around the corner and looked toward the fireplace. He saw that something was in his sock. Santa had left a present for him! He was so excited that he tripped on the corner of the rug and slid on his belly clear across the parlor floor. He grabbed his sock off the fireplace hook. He put his hand in the sock and felt something. What could it be? It was round. Maybe it was a baseball. He pulled it out. He had never received such a precious gift before in his entire life. It was an orange - a beautiful orange. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Little Tony ran up the stairs and woke everyone up. He had to show them his wonderful gift. Tony promised himself that he would keep the precious orange forever. He would never eat this wonderful prize. He kept it inside his sweater when he went out. He kept it in his bed when he went to sleep. He gently put it on his pillow when Momma said that he had to take a bath. Every day he polished it by rubbing it on his sweater. Eventually most of the orange part was worn off. It was now a white orange.
One day, after his bath, Tony went upstairs to look at his white orange. It was gone! Tony looked under the bed. Maybe it had rolled off the pillow. He crawled under the bed. It was not there. He looked everywhere. The precious orange was gone. He knelt down by the window. He tried to be brave. He would not cry. Maybe if he said a prayer, God would make the orange come back. As Tony was praying he looked up in the dark sky and there he saw a new white star that twinkled with an orange glow. Oh, there is my orange he squealed! Now all of the children of the world can see my beautiful orange.
Tonight, look up into the dark night sky, and if you have been very good, you will see Little Tony's bright star. It is the one that twinkles with an orange glow.
To all my children - Goodnight. Sleep well, and know that you are loved.
Based on a true story as told by Anthony (Tony) Jackowski to his daughter, Rosemarie.
Rosemarie Jackowski is an advocacy journalist living in Vermont.
Rosemarie Jackowski Bennington, Vermont. Phone 802-447-0868 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org