Birthday Love

It’s the 1930’s. Times are hard. The family
is poor, scratching out a living on a small farm.
With chickens, raising vegetables, their poverty
doesn’t prevent their eating well. Their life is charmed

the children think - woods to play in, being able to run wild,
enough to eat, some clothes for school and play, with others
for Sunday best, loving parents, lots of happiness and smiles.
They know of families with drunken fathers, mean mothers.

For their parents, life is difficult with long days, back-breaking
work in the field, the garden, around the house in order to feed
and clothe the family. Money is scarce, secured by selling
a chicken, doing odd jobs to raise enough for family needs.

The children - aged 10, 8, and 7 - are happy enough now,
but teenage will bring greater needs that will have to be met.
Homemade sack dresses and patchwork coats will somehow
need replacing with store-bought. Future worries, but not yet -

as for now, a penny piece of candy remains truly a delight.
At the country general store, the mother buys sugar, salt,
and flour…and one candy stick. “Now divide it up right.”
Her eye catches a lady’s hat. Mr. Green says “I thought

you might like that new hat. Try it on.” handing it to her.
A bit reluctantly she places it upon her head. “You should
buy it. I could put it on your account.” “Nothing’s farther
from my mind. My Sunday hat is old, but it’s still good.”

As she hands the hat back, her fingers do linger a bit.
Then she thinks that you never want to get too deep
in debt with Mr. Green, who has often seen fit
to cut off credit when needed most. He is said to keep

every cent he gets, never even giving a kid a candy stick.
‘Mean Green’ everyone calls him. She can do without the hat,
as pretty as it might be… Soon Christmas is here! St. Nick
is actually able to bring each child a new toy, bought at

Christmas eve with the last of their money, making it the best
holiday in several years for the family, which usually is able
to give only clothes to the children. Their toys, above all the rest,
fills the mother with joy, as much as having a good meal on the table.

Her birthday following in early January has gone uncelebrated in years
past. This year she notices her children whispering and exchanging
glances. After supper, the children have her sit down, then bring tears
to her eyes when before her they place a rather large box, saying

“This year we got you a present. Open it! Hurry up and open it!”
She finds the hat she loved from the store. “Oh, my. How nice!
But, we can’t afford to keep it.” “Now, Mama, you have to keep it!
We returned our Christmas toys…and Mr. Green came down in price.”

Harry Edward Gilleland      09.02.02