It was 1927 two years before the Great Depression started in the United States. Although times were tough, no one could ever imagine the depth of what was to come.
But, for Mary and Amzi Transue, June 8, 1927, was a good day. A day filled with hours of anticipation, pacing by Amzi, and Mary doing what all expectant mothers do when they are in labor. Soon, Amzi heard the cry of a newborn and hurried to Mary’s side. He stood by the bed looking at his loving wife holding a baby; a girl with tiny fingers and tiny toes. Amzi, called the rest of the family into the bedroom to meet their new sister, Roberta Lorraine. Roberta was the fourteenth child born to Amzi and Mary. She had auburn hair with the sweetest blue eyes that looked like an icy blue stream. This sweet little girl, watched over by her parents and older brothers and sisters went through milestones like any other baby, not realizing how tough life would soon be for her family.
The Great Depression began in 1929, the same year, Richard Transue was born. Richard was the fifteenth child of Mary and Amzi Transue. Roberta loved her little brother with her whole heart. She was often heard, giggling as she gazed at her little brother sleeping in his hand carved wooden cradle, the same cradle she had slept in.
Everything was changing rapidly when the stock market crashed. People lost their jobs, fear set in and food became scarce. Everything changed for Mary and Amzi except one important thing that actually grew in spite of worry. That thing was love. A love that kept the family together.
Mary grew most of what they ate along with canning and storing for the winter months. But with a large family, and a kind heart, Mary often found that the food did not stretch as far as she would have like it. However, that did not stop Mary from following her heart.
It was told that Mary and Amzi never turned anyone away who needed a meal. It didn’t matter how bleak each day looked, they were grateful for what they had and wanted to help all who knocked on their door. Mary, just put less on each plate so the new friend would have something to eat. Often she would add an extra potato in case a family member or a stranger stopped by.
Soon, it was Thanksgiving and one of Roberta’s older brothers hunted, shot and brought home a huge turkey that would become a feast for their large family. As the family gathered around the long rectangular table surrounded by benches on both sides, the children bowed their heads as Amzi said a prayer. Although the Depression was getting worse, Mary and Amzi knew in their hearts that they had a lot to be thankful for as they looked at their children sitting around the table laughing and enjoying a delicious dinner.
The Christmas Orange…..
November turned into December with snow falling on the first day. Mary’s thoughts turned to her family and Christmas. There was no money for gifts and Mary felt sad. She sold eggs for extra money but most of that went to put food on the table and to pay a little on their monthly bills. Mary and Amzi gathered their children around them and explained that Christmas would be different this year as they felt their hearts breaking until a spokesman for the older children said, ” It’s okay, we understand.” It is not as if Santa brought a huge bag of gifts for the children. Usually, they would receive one small gift each. But not this year. The tree would be decorated with popcorn and homemade ornaments as always but it would not cover any presents. Mary’s heart broke that day.
A few days before Christmas, the children hung up one of their own stockings on the fireplace and hoped that Santa would not forget them. Even if it was something small. The older children understood but hoped that Santa would leave just a little something for the younger ones.
The day before Christmas, Mary and Amzi went to the market to buy some flour when something caught Mary’s eye. She went over and talked with the owner of the market for a few minutes, then turned to Amzi and smiled. As they hurried home, Mary felt lighthearted as she thought about Christmas.
The next morning, the children were up bright and early. They bounced down the steps and headed to the tree. Mary and Amzi sat as the children waited for their stockings to be handed out. The oldest child explained that everyone had to wait until each one had their stocking. Excitement filled the room. Finally, the stockings were all given out and the count started. One, two, three…. The children slipped their hand into their stockings and pulled out a perfectly round, delicious smelling orange. Then, they put their hand back in again and pulled out a candy cane. The children smiled and were happy. As they carefully peeled their oranges they told their mother and father it was the best gift ever. Mary and Amzi smiled as parents do and said, ” Merry Christmas Children!” Then thirteen children smiled and said, ” Merry Christmas Mom and Daddy!” Even little Roberta giggled and giggled as she held tightly to her candy cane. Baby Richard cooed in his mother’s arms. Santa had not forgotten them.
My heartfelt thoughts……
Mary and Amzi Transue were my grandparents. I never met my grandfather but knew my grandmother. Roberta Lorraine was my Mom. Over the years and the weeks leading up to her death, Mom shared the Christmas orange story with me. She told me about the stockings hung by the fireplace and the many oranges she received growing up. During the Depression, oranges were expensive. When my grandmother spoke to the store owner she asked him if she could pay a little each week for fifteen oranges. He said, “Yes.” He gave the candy canes to my grandmother at no charge. That was the beginning of The Christmas Orange story that started so long ago. I hope you enjoyed this special Christmas story, a true story about a family filled with love. Merry Christmas!