Tintagel Christmas 2002
A Michigan Christmas
PC, GP collection
An excerpt from “ The Long Winter Ends” By Newton G. Thomas.
published in 1941.
tree at the church was not an evergreen. Evident enough it was that it had been
chosen with a thought to the load it would bear. Its smaller twigs had been
stripped off, and the remaining limbs wrapped in cotton. For convenience
rather than naturalness the limbs were entirely swathed in the artificial snow.
Ropes of cranberries and popped corn sagged from tip to tip of the branches in
pleasing arcs. Sparkling ornaments added to the show, and packages chosen
for the glare of their wrapping. Around the tree on the floor the large packages
were heaped and baskets placed, filled with bulging paper sacks. All of this had
been expressed directly from the polar warehouse to arrive before the Christmas
saint could get there. But he would come. Assurances had been received and
announced, even to the time of his arrival. When he came still more kindliness
would pour from his pack.
due time—when the songs had been sung and the pieces said—bells were heard
at the door. Eager expectant eyes were turned to see him enter. Dressed in red
trimmed with white, bearded, muffled, and snow-flecked, he came down the aisle.
His pack swung awkwardly from side to side as he feigned the prance and vigor of
youth. He went directly to the platform and made a short speech, still holding
his sack. A skeptic might have discerned a falsity, a strain in the voice, and a
suspicious person might have wondered at the accent.
Cornishmen are like the turf;
roam all the earth.
superintendent of the Sunday school took charge again and began the distribution
of the gifts. The children marched
past to get the little paper sacks. Then came the major interest, the
distribution of the boxed and bundled things. Most of these were gracious tokens
of the season extended within families and between relatives—classes to
teachers and the school to the superintendent. Many members of the church
accepted the church tree service in lieu of one at home. Some who were not
members accepted the tree as a public institution. Young people showed the world
their approval of one another by utilizing it similarly.
packages were marked, “To be opened at the tree.” The donors of the gifts in
them omitted their names from such. A little vanity was apparent in the ruse
when the gift was expensive and eye-filling. More often the gifts, marked so,
added laughter to the occasion, sometimes derision. Humorous oddments were
displayed, something to emphasize an eccentricity or to recall a laughable
episode widely known. Taste in such matters frequently overreached itself, and
no laugh came. Dislikes or known enmities, at times, prompted humiliating or
frankly insulting tokens, and resentments flamed hotly after their exposure.
The superintendent tried to suppress such vulgarities; but something was sure
to elude him, and his surprise often communicated the character of what he
refused to show. So St. Nicholas and St. Valentine met in church at the tree.
minister came back for supper, but both Jim and J ake avoided him. At five
o’clock the coach from Calumet came in, and the post office would be open for
a half-hour. Jim was at the office door when the coach drove up.
struggled to suppress the hope that might precede a too bitter disappointment if
he gave it wing. He knew himself well enough to foretell the depth of gloom he
would reach if he were too expectant of a letter that failed to come. The thump,
thump, thump of the stamp came to his ears. He counted them, a thump to a
letter; one of them was for him perhaps. By the counting he hoped to dull the
edge of his eagerness; and for the same reason he watched the distribution
through the small glass squares of the boxes. He was not thinking of the
business interests of the letters he counted, but regarded them all as messages
of the reason from friend to friend. They might be all akin to the one he
expected. He imagined them going to homes and boarding houses— letters from
Finland, from Sweden, from Italy, from England, bringing their treasures of
memory and affection on this Christmas Day. Different tongues of different
lands, but their loves, their hopes, their anxieties the same. The wicket flew
brought up the end of the line and mentioned his name, his heart beating in a
tumult of expectation in spite of him, expectation and fear.
Mr. Holman,” said the woman, and slid the letter toward him.
secured his prize and hastened home. “‘Ow fitty,” he said, “for it t’ come t’day! Now, if ‘e awnly hold good news, ‘e will be
Merry Christmas an’ no mistake.”
went to his room, lighted a candle and broke the seal. The first words he made
out clearly and with exultation. “Dear Jim!” He could hear her say it. And
then, word by word he pored over each line, recognizing one and failing with
another, but rejoicing that Pol was so close to him. It was like seeing one
uncertainly in a dream, the face coming almost to view but receding again. He
thought of photographs he had seen that were not clear. So the message eluded
him. He tried it again and again but had to give it up. “I am well; I love
you, Jim,” she said, and that made the rest easy to wait for. He raised his
head, and Allen stood in the door.
didn’t see any of us when you came in,” he said. “I thought I’d give you
time to see what you could do alone and then, if you needed help, lend a
couldn’t make un all out,” said Jim, and handed his friend the letter.
read, transforming Pol’s phonetic Devonese into better English.
letter written by your friend came yesterday. I am glad you are well and making
friends. Mr. Allen must be a good man. I hope to meet him some day. “And the
money came, too. I shall be as careful as I can, and save some from each note
must be bitter cold there with so much snow. I try to fancy how it looks, so
deep and white everywhere. How do women walk in it?
do you live, so many in one house? What do they do on Sundays when all are at
home? Does one woman cook for all of them?
know you miss Bill and Joe and Tom. I am glad Jake is with you. How far is
Central from where you are? Give Jake my regards. When Grace hears from Tom she
you think you would like to live in America for good? You did not say.
me about the work, Jim, if it is as hard there as it is here. I suppose mining
is mining the world over.
am glad you are going to school. It must be hard after a day’s work, or to get
out of bed to study; but it will be like talking together when you can write.
The schoolmaster must be a good man too.
am well, Jim. Don’t worry about me, my son. My mother comes in every day. Your
mother does almost every day.
it is good of your friend to write for you and he makes an interesting letter,
but I can’t wait till you write yourself.
was just thinking this might reach you Christmas. I hope it does.
a whisper, my dear. We both send our love to you.
love you, Jim.
handed the letter to Jim. Jim seemed far away to him, and the candle gave a
“Now you read it, Jim,” he said, “and I will help you along.”
Click on cover for details on how to get a copy of the book on the web.
For this and other books on Michigan click on the cover.
Michigan Postcard (GP collection). Just like the Cornish those darn Piskies get everywhere.