Written by Catherine Dillon Friday, 16 December 2011 00:00
The year was 1944. Although he had no sons, my dad proudly displayed a Service flag with three blue stars in our front window. I was in the Navy, my sister Mary was in the Army and Eileen was in the Cadet Nurse program. Another sister, Pat, was a civilian. She was 11. We were a very close family–given to lots of love and laughter–so the separation caused by our military service was indeed a hardship. That Christmas we were to learn just how hard, when it appeared that none of us would get leave. The family decided to postpone the Yule festivities until we could all be together.
Then, an unexpected transfer to the Admiral’s office changed my status and I was granted leave. I arrived home on Christmas Eve. Mamma, Daddy and Pat were delighted. Now there were four of us. We celebrated at the kitchen table with cinnamon toast, generously margarined (butter had gone off to war), and a pot of tea made with one rationed teabag.
Suddenly, a shadow passed by the kitchen window, the back door flew open and in burst Mary! The Army project overshadowing Christmas was finished ahead of schedule. Now we were five!
We set off for Midnight Mass at the chapel in the hospital where Eileen was assigned, so we could spend the most important part of the holy day together. And there we met yet another delightful surprise. The hospital administrator spotted Mary and me in uniform – and sent Eileen packing!
Two unexpected graces emerged from that happy occasion. One was an increase in our concern and gratitude toward those young men who were spending perhaps their third Christmas overseas, boys who might never see home again. And second, we became even more deeply aware of just how much we meant to one another.
So that was Christmas! No tree, no presents and meat loaf for dinner. But looking back, even after all those decades, we’ve always agreed – it was the best Christmas we ever had!
(Anton Community Newspapers/Manhasset Press invites you to share your favorite holiday memories.)