By Brenda Kay Ledford
Above, Rondy Ledford and Blanche Lee, who is wearing the watch he gave her for Christmas. Photo courtesy of the Ledford Family Archives.
Blanche Lee wiped a circle of moisture off the living room window. She strained her eyes to see if Rondy Ledford was coming for Christmas. A blizzard whipped the log cabin in 1937. Pines swayed under bundles of snow and it was cold as the dickens. The wind whistled like a train across the mountain. A gust of wind swooped down the fireplace and smoke filled the cabin.
Mama fanned the room with her apron and slung open the front door. Icy wind cut through the room and sprinkled snow on the pine wood floor. Blanche slammed the door and shivered.
“Oh, Mama,” she cried. “I don’t think Rondy will make it home for Christmas. There’s no way he can walk from the Civilian Conservation Corps headquarters. Snow must be knee deep, and not even a billy goat could climb Tuni Mountain. It’s going to be the worst Christmas I’ve ever had.”
“Don’t cry, child,” said Mama. “You know your sweetheart would come home if he could make it across the mountains. Dry up those tears and let’s get this quilt finished.” So Blanche, Oma, Mary Lou, Helen, Hubby and Mama pulled up can bottom chairs around the quilting frames.
They made tiny stitches on the Double Wedding Ring quilt and embroidered their names in the corners. The wind howled like a hyena and shook, and rattled the windows of the little cabin. Flames flickered in the fireplace and Daddy tossed another log on the fire.
The smell of cornpone baking in the Dutch oven made your mouth water. Mama would serve it for Christmas dinner with dried apple stacked fruitcake, vinegar pie, chicken and dumplings, kraut, leather breeches, mashed taters, and fresh meat since Daddy had just butchered a hog.
The stockings hung over the fireplace. They were filled with Macintosh apples, oranges, peppermint candy, creme drops, and Brazil nuts. Daddy had filled the stockings with goodies that morning. The Christmas tree stood beside the heath.
The other day George, Frank and their daddy took the horse and sled on Davy Mountain. They cut a cedar tree and hauled it home on the sled. The girls decorated the Christmas tree with strings of popcorn and cut paper chains from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
Blanche ambled to the tree and adjusted the Christmas star. It shimmered in the candlelight and she hummed, “Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, shine on, shine on…”
It was almost midnight on Christmas Eve. Snow continued falling like Grandma dusting her feather bed. Blanche’s heart thumped and her palms perspired. She feared Rondy might get lost in the snowstorm. She prayed her sweetheart would make it safely home.
“It’s time for bed, ” said Mama. “Rondy can’t make it through that snow.”
Tears filled Blanche’s eyes. She poked to the bedroom to put on her flannel gown and bed cap. Mary Lou was all ready in the feather bed snoring.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Daddy opened it and Rondy stomped into the room shouting, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!”
Blanche’s heart pounded like a drum. She charged into the living room and her sweetheart looked like a giant snowman. His CCC uniform was covered with snow and his nose looked redder than Rudolph the reindeer. Randy’s blue eyes twinkled and he grinned at Blanche. She thought he was the most handsome feller in the world. Then Rondy handed Blanche a Christmas present. “Can I open it now?” she asked.
Rondy nodded his head.
She ripped open the package and found a manicure set and a beautiful gold wristwatch. It was the first watch she had ever gotten in her life. Blanche put it on her wrist and threw her arms around Rondy’s neck. He chuckled and kissed her.
The grandfather clock chimed 12 times and the Lee family shouted, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!”
That was the best Christmas Blanche Lee ever had.