Though there was little room there in front of the window, all six children crowded around the tiny peephole that had somehow worked its way through the frosty film on the glass. This was the only window in their home that was not boarded up to ward off the bitter cold wind. Despite the efforts made to keep warm, the frigid fingers of winter slid their way in between the bruised and ruined wooden slats that clung to the side of the house. The children were cold and their tummies grumbled with the demand and the need for nourishment.
Stashed in the kitchen pantry were three or four wrinkled and nearly rotten potatoes; the only food available in the house. They were a precious commodity, those gnarly and nasty tubers. With water and a little salt, they would be a decadent meal for the five little girls, one little boy, and their mother.
The kids could hear their mom downstairs in the parlor, praying quietly with her bible pressed against her breast. She was asking God for a miracle. Wood for the stove. Milk to drink. Warm clothes that were not worn and tattered. Slippers or warm socks for their feet. Soap to cleanse themselves. And most importantly, food to fill their empty bellies.
It was Sunday afternoon and the kids could easily see the road from their tiny opening to the world. There was not a lot of traffic on that day in 1937 and every time a car came into view, they would chime in with their mother, praying incessantly for reprieve. There were no special programs and no emergency relief funds. There was no telephone in the house and no nearby neighbor to visit. They were at the mercy of fate and the only possibility of survival was divine intervention.
At last, a car turned into their drive and moved slowly through the unplowed snow. The children clasped their hands together and leaned even closer to the window, their eyes following the movement of the 1934 Nash with great hope. A woman climbed out of the passenger’s side of the automobile, balancing a box on her hip as the driver joined her holding a much larger box in his arms. From the backseat, two other people exited, their arms filled with burlap sacks and a shiny canister that swayed to and fro as the four made their way to the front door.
Their mother shouted her praises and the children chimed in as the four people from the nearby church unpacked flour, rice, butter, cheese, slabs of bacon, fresh potatoes, carrots, sugar, sweet syrup, canned goods, eggs, and creamy milk.
My father was 7 years old on that miraculous Sunday afternoon, and he and his sisters were placed in state foster homes shortly after, where they remained until they reached adulthood. One of my beloved cousins compares their childhood to something right out of a Dickens novel and it was.
This Christmas season, I want to be part of a miracle; whether it is a one dollar bill tossed into a red kettle or a brightly wrapped gift slipped under someone’s Christmas tree. I would love for you to join me.
Belinda Wilcox Ouellette lives Connor TWP with her husband Dale and their dog Barney.