This has been a short story based on a true incident that occurred to one of my older siblings and passed down from my mom. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as I wrap it up today.
When we left Ella, Walter and the children, they were in the doctor’s office where the doctor had removed the shards of glass from baby Charlie’s mouth. He is about to give them home care instructions. We’ll join them to see what he has to say.
Dr. Davis scrubbed his hands then pulled up a metal chair and sat across from Walter and Ella. “Even though I got all the glass I could see out of his mouth, we don’t know how much he might have swallowed.” He sighed. “And therein lies the problem.”
Ella leaned forward, cradling the now sleeping baby. “What can we do, doctor?”
“You may think this sounds crazy, but I want you to get some potatoes and boil them up. I’ll give you some cotton balls to take home with you. Tear off little pieces of the cotton and wrap the potato around it to make tiny balls, and make him swallow it. Do this several times a day. The cotton should grab any slivers of glass and he’ll pass them in his stool.”
The nurse had stood in the background, but moved forward. “Do you folks have potatoes?”
Walter shook his head. “But, I’ll get some.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to drop by your place later today to check on the baby,” Dr. Davis said.
“Thank you, sir,” Ella said quietly. “We’ll find a way to pay you.”
The doctor waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s Christmas time and the least I can do.”
With a box of cotton balls in hand, Walter, Ella, and the children left the doctor’s office.
Inside the ragged old car, Ella let fresh tears fall. “Oh, Walter, I am so sorry. I only let him out of my sight long enough to hang out the washin’. He just can’t die.”
Walter touched Ella’s arm. “Pull yourself together. We’ll do whatever we can. We need to buy a few potatoes.”
Ella nodded and held Charlie close to her heart. She was grateful that Walter didn’t seem mad at her for not watching the baby closer. She didn’t think she could carry any more guilt.
Over the next few hours, together, Walter and Ella managed to get several potato cotton balls down little Charlie’s throat along with a few sips of water.
True to his word, the good doctor stopped by to check on him, promising a return visit the next day.
Ella sat rocking Charlie as the sunlight faded into cold darkness. “Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, Walter. And, all I want is for our baby to be okay. If we can have that, it’ll be enough.”
Walter nodded. “I know.” He ran a hand through his thin hair. “It don’t seem to matter what we do, we can’t never get a break.”
Jane and Celie had been quiet since they’d left the doctor’s office. Jane sat in the corner with her doll while Celie sucked her thumb.
“Mama,” Jane said. “I’m sorry. I shoulda watched Charlie better.”
“Come here,” Ella said. “Now you listen here, Jane Smith. You are just a little girl. I shoulda never put that responsibility on you. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“But, Santa won’t think so. He knows and he won’t bring us nothin’.”
Ella met Walter’s eyes over the top of the little girl’s head. Sadness crushed her heart. It was true. They had nothing for the girls and no hope of getting anything. Sadness turned to anger and she resented the folks that seemed to have more than enough. They worked hard and didn’t waste anything and yet nothing changed.
Throughout the night and the next day, Ella and Walter continued to poke the potato cotton balls down Charlie’s throat. He’d remained lethargic, only opening his eyes now and then and letting out a whimper.
Early on Christmas morning a car rolled to stop outside their tiny house. When Walter opened the door, he gasped.
“Merry Christmas!” Dr. Davis’ nurse said as she pranced through the door. “I brought you folks some things.” She sat down a large bag that included a ham and fresh vegetables.
Ella moved toward her. “Oh, dear! You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know I didn’t. But I wanted to. I’ve got a few things here for your girls too, if it’s okay with you.”
Jane and Celie rushed forward. The nurse passed brightly wrapped packages to them and they tore into them like ravenous animals.
Squeals of excitement filled the small space, as they unwrapped new dolls, a set of jacks and a ball and a coloring book along with crayons.
Ella fought against more tears. In the midst of the chaos, Dr. Davis arrived.
He strode to Charlie and picked him up. The baby opened his eyes and smiled at the good doctor. After completing an examination, he turned to Walter and Ella. “I do believe we have a Christmas miracle. I think your little Charlie is going to be just fine. You folks did a fine job of doctoring him.”
And, so Walter and Ella along with their three children had a Christmas to remember.
For once, they filled their bellies with as much food as they wanted, and the future held hope…hope for a brighter day…hope for prosperity and hope for happiness.
As I told you at the beginning, this was a true story passed down through the family. Above you can see Ella and Walter (my mom and dad, Marian and I.V. Smith).
I sincerely wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas! If you need a Christmas Miracle, I pray that you receive it. For, it is truly a magical time of year!
When we left Ella and her three children, a kindly neighbor had driven them to the doctor’s office. Charlie, the baby, had eaten glass and was bleeding. Let’s join them in the doctor’s office.
Ella ushered the two girls up the steps and through the wooden door ahead of her.
A nurse dressed in a crisp white uniform and cap stepped from behind a desk.
“Oh my!” She gasped when she saw the child. “Doctor Davis, come quick,” she called over her shoulder.
“Please help my baby!” Ella cried.
The nurse reached for the bundle and Ella relinquished him into her arms.
“Tell me what happened.” The nurse quickened her steps toward the examining room.
Ella and the two girls followed. “I was outside hanging out washin’ when my oldest girl came screaming for me and said Charlie was bleeding.” She swiped a blood-stained hand across her weary eyes. “I was only gone for a little bit.”
The nurse laid the baby on a narrow table as Doctor Davis strode into the room.
He took one look at the baby and reached for cotton gauze. “Nurse Ingrid, fetch me the long tweezers, please.” He glanced up at Ella. “Your baby ate glass?”
She nodded, wringing her hands. “I don’t even know what broke or how it happened, I just got here as quick as I could.” Fresh tears streamed down her face.
The somber look on his face caused her heart to stop.
“This is very serious, ma’am.” He reached for the tweezers. “Nurse, hold him while I try to get these tiny shards out of his little mouth.”
Charlie kicked and screamed while the doctor worked. Ella moved to the table and helped hold his legs.
“Please tell me he will be all right,” she begged.
The doctor looked her in the eye. “I wish I could, ma’am. I wish I could.”
After what seemed like an eternity, Doctor Davis laid the tweezers on a tray and dipped cotton into a basin of water. He gently washed the inside of the baby’s mouth.
Ella sank into a chair near the table and dropped her head into her hands. The two girls moved to her side. Tears had subsided and Charlie finally closed his tiny eyes and slept.
They looked up when Walter dashed through the door. “What in tarnation has happened?”
While the doctor explained, the nurse finished cleaning the baby, wrapped him in a clean blanket, then laid him in Ella’s arms.
Ella barely comprehended the final words the doctor uttered to Walter. “He isn’t out of the woods by a longshot, sir. We don’t know how much he ingested or what it will do to his guts and stomach.”
Walter crossed the room to Ella and placed a trembling hand on her shoulder. “What can we do?”
I started a short story last Sunday that is based on true tales passed down from my mom and older sister. The story takes place during a time when the full raging effects of the Great Depression had displaced so many.
We met Walter and Ella Smith, who are living with their three children in a small wood-frame house that Walter built for $50 out of used lumber and bent nails. But, it was a sight better than the tent they’d occupied before the drafty tiny house. When we left them, Walter had gone off to work at the gas station and Ella had been summoned from hanging clothes on the line by her oldest daughter. The baby, Charlie, was bleeding. We’ll rejoin them now and see what has happened.
Ella burst through the door and gasped when she saw Charlie sitting in the middle of the floor wailing with blood running from his mouth.
“Jane, what happened?”
The eight-year-old girl sobbed. “I don’t know, Mama. Me and Celie were playing and he started crying.”
Ella scooped up the crying baby and examined his mouth. Tiny shards of glass could be seen.
A look back at the floor revealed more glass.
She grabbed a quilt off the bed and wrapped it around him. “Jane and Celie, get your shoes on quick! We’ve got to go get help.”
Running like the devil chased her, Ella flew down the hill with the two girls close behind.
She banged on the door of her nearest neighbor.
A white-haired man opened the door. “What in tarnation is wrong, Ella?”
“Please, help me, Mr. Fagan, I’ve gotta get my baby to the doctor. He’s bleeding awful bad.” She swiped at the tears streaming down her face. “And he has glass in his mouth.”
The old man moved like cold molasses. “Well, then. Let me get my coat and I’ll drive you to Doc Davis’s.”
“Thank you, sir. But, can we hurry?” She attempted to soothe the squalling baby in her arms.
Panic gripped her heart tight, like a vise around a ripe melon. She feared it might explode from the pressure. Guilt overtook the fear and she chastised herself for not taking the younguns outside with her. It’s just that it was so cold.
Mr. Fagan hobbled out to the rusted 1934 Chevy coupe and groaned when he slid behind the wheel.
Ella wasted no time getting the girls into the car before joining them on the narrow seat.
“Sh,” she rocked the crying baby. “Can we hurry, Mr. Fagan? I’m so scared.”
The old man ran a gnarled hand through his white hair and started the engine. “Don’t reckin I ever heard of a baby eatin’ glass before.”
“Me neither,” Ella managed.
“Where’s Walter?” The old man asked.
“Working at the station today. Can you stop by there on your way home, and let him know?”
The old man nodded and pulled to a stop in front of the corner building where the doctor’s shingle hung.
Ella sprang from the car. “Jane, hold your sister’s hand.” They rushed inside the doctor’s office.
Dr. Bob Rich put this post together with such insight and thought that I had to share. Take a minute to think about what he is saying. Let’s try to keep a perspective of what Christmas truly is or is not. Many thanks to Dr. Bob for this!
I am more tolerant toward Christmas than I used to be. Until quite recently, I wanted to get off the planet at the early warning signs of holiday frenzy. Now, I smilingly tune out, and use Buddhist equanimity to get through it.
Here is a paragraph from Ascending Spiral, which is my fictionalised autobiography:
Aunt Irén also got me to hate Christmas. Mother requested that Father should celebrate Hanukkah when I was with him, so Aunt Irén lit candles on the Christmas tree, then said, “Now we’ll light the Jewish Christmas candles too.” I knew what saccharin was: her smile. She showed me without words that she despised the wonderful story of Hanukkah, the story of courage against overwhelming odds. She knew the story all right, but made it an inferior custom of an inferior people.
So, that’s where my automatic emotional reaction comes…
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I felt the urge to share a Christmas story this year and I truly hope you enjoy it. My family was poor. Not the kind of poor that we think we are today, but the kind of poor that, for many years during the great depression, had no home in which to live, and very little food to eat. Sometimes they had a tent, sometimes a shack and sometimes only the side of the road, but they survived. This story is loosely based on tales handed down from my mom and oldest sister. Some of this actually happened to them, but not all in Roswell and not all in the same sequence. I am taking literary license here to create a fiction tale from their recollections.
Roswell, New Mexico in 1940 was just starting to grow and develop. After all, the air base located there brought people and people brought prosperity, but not for everyone.
“Christmas is right around the corner, Walter, and we have nothing for the children.” Ella Spencer put her hands on her hips and faced him.
Walter ran a hand through thin brown hair. “I know, Ella. Can’t you see I’m doin’ my best?”
Cold wind whistled through the cracks between the rough wood boards that made up the fifty-dollar house built into the side of a hill.
Walter checked the kerosene level on the single stove in the back corner.
Ella sighed. “I know. So am I. The washings I take in help, but it’s just never enough. If we had electricity, I could do more.”
“Dammit! I can’t work more than three jobs in a day’s time. So, I don’t know what else you expect me to do.”
“If I knew how to drive, maybe I could get a job in town.”
Walter waved a hand around the small square room. “And do what with these younguns?”
Ella’s small shoulders drooped. Walter was right. She had to take care of the children with what few resources they had.
But, at least they now had a house. It was a sight better than the tent they’d lived in before Walter built this house out of used lumber and bent nails.
“Times have got to get better,” she said. “They just have to.”
“Damned government don’t care one lick about us poor people. We ain’t the only ones, Ella. There’s a whole slew of us that ain’t got a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of.”
Again, she knew he was right, but it didn’t lessen the sting of not having a single present to give the children on Christmas morning.
They were doing good to put shoes on their feet, and food in their mouths, much less anything that wasn’t a pure necessity.
She let her mind drift back ten years. Maybe if she’d married Tommy Turnbow instead of Walter they’d be better off. But, she hadn’t. Walter had promised a good life.
She’d learned that promises were only made to be broken.
“Walter, if I could just buy a few yards of material, I could sew coats for the girls. They need something to help keep them warm through the winter.”
“I’ll take you into town Saturday and see what we can find. But, we can’t spend more than two dollars. That’s all we’ve got to spare.”
“Two dollars is better than zero. We’ve seen many a day where that was the case.”
Walter rolled a cigarette and blew a smoke ring. “All I know is I’m doin’ my best and I’ve got to get going or I’ll be late to the gas station.”
Ella handed him a tin box that held two biscuits and a thermos of soup. “I’ll see you tonight.”
The door slammed behind Walter, and Ella turned her attention to the wash tub and pile of clothes. She carried water from a single faucet outside the door and set it to boiling on the stove. The baby, Charles, crawled on the wood floor and banged a spoon against the boards. The two older girls played in a corner with rag dolls a kind lady had given them a couple of years back.
She sighed. “Girls, watch after your brother while I get this washin’ done and hung out on the line.”
The oldest looked up. “Okay, Mama.”
Ella worried about the scorpions they shared their house with. So far, no one had been bitten, but she remained vigilant.
Her hands red and chapped from the lye soap stung when the cold air hit them. By the time she had the clothes pinned to the line, she could no longer feel her fingers. Just as the hung the last sheet, her oldest daughter ran outside.