The Christmas Dress
A trip to the five and dime store we called Woolworth in
1940 was like a trip to the Mall. You could find anything
you wanted in that store. A quarter was gold in the hands
of a shrewd shopper like my mother. She would manage to
come out with two bags of wonderful items for a dollar.
We did not often go to town to shop as most of our clothing
was handmade. I cannot remember, when I was little, ever
getting a dress from the store. The Sears Catalogue was
my favorite thing to look at, where I spent hours admiring
the wonderful party dresses for girls my age.
There was one dress that I wanted so bad but knew it was
well beyond our simple means. It was royal blue with a lace
collar and a satin sash around the middle. I guess Mom knew
my heart, so off we went to the store to get the fabric
for the dress.
After we got home my Mother carefully put the material
on the top shelf of her closet and said nothing more about
it. Days went by and she did nothing that looked like sewing.
I waited each day for her to drag out the box of homemade
patterns and start on my dress. Only once in that time did
she let out an old coat for me to wear that had seen better
days. I was ashamed, at that time, of my hand-me-down clothes
and made-over coats. But many had less so it was good my
Mother could sew.
Christmas was fast approaching and the house smelled like
ginger and cinnamon with all the holiday baking. Dad and
my brothers had managed to get a nice deer and several geese
and ducks for the Christmas feast. The day before Christmas
I helped my mother, in the kitchen, pluck the goose and
the ducks and ready them for the oven. We were the ones
who would hold the dinner at our house this year. That was
good because I did not have to travel for hours to see my
cousins. They would all be here this evening.
Christmas morning came and we opened the few presents under
the tree. Mostly they were warm clothes and a few toys for
the boys. I sat and waited for the rest to finish opening
their presents. I had been given a small music box that
played the “Blue Danube Waltz.”
Finally Mom said, “ok, go and get dressed and try
not to get dirty before everyone arrives.” The boys
went out to do the chores and I went to my room feeling
sad because I did not have a pretty dress to wear.
I shut my door and there on the back of the door hung a
dress just like the one in the Sears Catalogue. There was
even a satin sash and a matching ribbon for my hair.
That day I made sure I did not get dirty and sat like a
perfect little lady all day long. That was a once-in-a-lifetime
thing as usually I was out in the barns playing and jumping
from the loft into the hay with my brothers.
My cousin, Diana, had brought her “Little Women”
doll she had been given for Christmas. I was in envy of
her because my mother had decided that I was too old for
dolls so I did not receive one that Christmas. Some how
the dress made up for all the lack of dolls and other gifts,
I was as happy as I have ever been.
Every one said how pretty the dress was and I danced and
twirled to the music all evening.
We always had music and some singing, mostly old tunes,
not too many Christmas songs. My Uncle would play the guitar
along with my brother and we had a wonderful time singing
songs. Later on at night we had leftovers and then some,
who had driven so far, stayed over night. All of us little
ones were piled into a large bed where we giggled and laughed
most of the night.
Sometimes the simple things that are handmade
with love are the best ones. I carried on that tradition
of sewing Christmas dresses for my daughters. I worked sewing
them at night after I came home from work, until my eyes
could no longer stay open.
My mother had so little yet she, too, must have spent many
hours late at night making me that special dress. I can
still see her working in the kitchen as we prepared the
Christmas dinner. My aunts and cousins would all be in the
kitchen helping and laughing. The men scooted in and out,
taking down the doors to make tables, and helping with the
heavy things. A quick scold from one of the women when one
of the men grabbed a sample from the plates would again
cause the kitchen to bust into laughter.
We may have not had much in the way of money or material
things, but we belonged to a family. This was the most important
feeling of home, the love, and comfort of belonging. Yes
there were good times and bad times, we fought and made
up, and then fought again. In the end, no matter what, when
we were needed, we were still family. I miss my family many
of who are in spirit now, and want to say thank you again
Mom for making my life a good one.
This Christmas I will sew my granddaughter a special dress
to wear. It will be sewn with love, by hand, and from my
heart. I want her to remember family and know that she is
always loved and wanted. Blessings Waynonaha
Copyright © 2005 by Waynonaha Two Worlds All publication
make a child's winter warmer..
Winter looms on the hills that surround the reservation.
Once again we make the appeal for children’s clothing.
We accept warm clothing from 0 to size 12. Please make sure
they are in good repair and clean something that you would
put on your own children. Warm coats mittens and hats also
gently used boots are welcome. Baby cloths from new born
to toddlers also are much needed.
At Christmas we have a toy drive for the children. In the
day care there are 255 children ranging from age 1year to
12 years. In this day care we offer teaching both western
and traditional. There are elders who are sharing the language
and the traditional ways. We act also as an after school
place to be safe during the school year.
The name of the day care is Seneca Nation Children’s
Early Development Program, and is located on the Cattaraugus
Indian Reservation in N.Y. If you wish to make a cash donation
then please make the checks out to the children’s
We ask for toys that are not to large, both for boys and
girls, they must be wrapped and labeled boy or girl and
the age that they are appropriate for. The toys need not
be expensive and can be anything from a color book to a
small toy truck. Just be careful when buying that there
are no small parts or anything that can harm a child.
We also love good books for the children perhaps some gently
used ones that we can read to them. Used toys are acceptable
as long as they are in good clean working order and not
toys that depict war or violence.