Submitted by Jessie Garza, Jr.
While growing up; we didn’t celebrate Birthdays or Christmas like everyone else; primarily because my grandparents; Ambrosio & Herminia Sarabia-Garza-Moreno (who were raising me and my cousin Ernestina) just couldn’t afford to buy us toys and/or other material things that other kids’ parents could afford to buy for them.
My grandparents were very cognizant of the fact that there were other families in Toppenish whose children didn’t have to go without much because they were better off financially than us. So, we didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas in general (other than spiritually), because my grandparents knew the tremendous amount of pressure and expectations associated with these celebrated holidays i.e. buying gifts that they couldn’t afford were just too incomprehensible for a child. So, we just didn’t make a big deal about these holidays around our house.
Though we didn’t celebrate Christmas with gifts, we recognized the birth of Jesus Christ with my grandmother Herminia who would sit us down, pray & thank God for what we did have.
I remember my grandmother Herminia telling us that we couldn’t have a Christmas tree in our house because my grandpa Ambrosio was allergic to them and it would cause him to experience a major allergic reaction. Not to mention; that we also just couldn’t afford to buy a tree; and then have to buy all the decorations that went on a tree.
As children we never questioned my grandmother or grandfather and it made a lot of sense, plus we didn’t want to be selfish and take chances that our grandfather would get sick and maybe die. So, we lived with the fact that we couldn’t have a Christmas tree.
I remember one Christmas, it was 1959, when I was 8 years old and in Mrs. Dearing’s 2nd grade class. It was the last day of school before Christmas break and my teacher Mrs. Dearing, asked the class if there was anyone who wanted to take the classes’ beautifully decorated “Christmas Tree” home.
I must have made a real impression on my teacher or she must have noticed how desperate I was to have this tree waving my hand and arm “wildly” in the air, because she chose me.
I remember this clearly in my mind because; I was so excited and in almost shocked disbelief that she had chosen me! It was like I had just won a million dollars!
Here was this huge “Christmas Tree” already decorated and so beautiful, and it was going to be in my house! Of course; at that moment, I wasn’t thinking about two major obstacles that I was going to have to overcome and endure:
- I lived a mile from school, and I was going to have to drag this huge tree all the way home by myself in the cold winter month of December and through the snow.
- How was I going to convince my grandparents to let me keep the tree?
All the way home as I struggled; dragging this tree home and trying to be careful to not cause any damage to it, and my thoughts were on what was I going to tell my grandparents? How would I explain to them that my teacher, Mrs. Dearing had given the tree to me? Would they believe me? Would they make me take it back?
I remember sweating with every step struggling to move and drag that huge tree. But; half of this sweat was not from the struggle of pulling and dragging this tree, but just the worry about what the outcome would be; once I made it home. But, just the same, I continued my journey.
Finally, after about two hours; which, seemed like days; I made it home. I remember, my cousin Tina (Ernestina) with this surprised look on her face. And, then I remember her saying that I was going to be in “big trouble” for bringing that tree home. Boy, was I getting more nervous now! But; I wasn’t about to give in that easy; especially not after dragging that tree all that way home. No sir; I was going to go into that house and go directly to my grandmother and just tell her how much this tree meant to me and I was sure that she would understand.
When I entered the house; both my grandmother and grandfather were sitting in the living room. I was sweating nervously and started explaining the whole story and how I had gotten this huge wonderful Christmas Tree from my teacher and everything. My grandparents just looked at each other. Then, my grandmother started reminding me; how it would be difficult on my grandfather. But then; my grandfather interrupted her and laughingly said “let him bring that tree inside; he deserves to have that Christmas Tree after all that work.” I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy and ran outside with excitement and dragged the Christmas Tree inside our house.
I remember staying up almost all night; admiring “Our Very First Christmas Tree”. And, to top things off; after I fell asleep and I woke up in the morning there under the tree; I found a special gift—it was a cap-gun that I had been admiring at the store when grocery shopping with my grandparents. And, as you can imagine; that tree has had a “tremendous imprint” in my memory that even today when I think of the Christmas Holidays we’re about to celebrate this one; is probably the most memorable for me, growing up as a child.
This experience taught me to appreciate and treasure even the little things in life; and this is something that we also instilled into our children’s lives; while trying to make their Christmas’ one that they too would always enjoy and appreciate.