It was a gray and cold day on Christmas 1981. There had been snow flurries all day, and now it was sleeting. Joe had been amazed at the, new computer technology, such as Atari and Word Processors. Jane asked him what he would like to have for his Christmas gift? Joe responded, heartily, a Texas Instrument computer that you could hook up to a small television that would serve as a monitor.
Their newborn son, David, was fast asleep in his crib…and Joe had done all that he knew to do, to plug up the holes and cracks in their little house. The 20 mile per hour wind had a below 0 Fahrenheit chill factor!
Joe and Jane and little David, had enjoyed a delicious holiday meal at Bert and Mae’s house, in DuQuoin, Illinois. There was Jane’s brother and sister and their spouses. There was TJ and Tick Tock and Wayne…who was focused on getting back to his home in order that he could watch wrestling on the TV.
Mae made the most wonderful sage dressing and Joe helped himself to three portions. Also, the pumpkin pie was to die for! The house was old and drafty, just like Jane and Joe’s was, and Jane’s parents had to make use of space heaters to help ameliorate the chill. Bert was still employed as an inspector at Turco Manufacturing. Turco was the largest manufacturer of swing sets in the United States. Mae had recently retired from a dress factory in Pickneyville, and both of them always made Joe feel welcome. Mae baked the most delicious chocolate chip cookies!
Joe had began working at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale in 1978. He had started as a Building Service Worker I, which is a janitor, and he was ecstatic to be making a decent living. He and Jane had started their life together, financially embarrassed. The grocery budget was $25 per week and included a staple of potatoes. On his first day back to his night shift job, after he and Jane’s three day honeymoon, Joe was overjoyed to see two cheeseburgers in his lunch pail! When he remarked to his bride that he enjoyed the sandwiches very much…she told him to not get used to them because their grocery budget would not sustain the purchase of meat.
As Christmas night fell…Joe was enjoying playing with his new Texas Instrument computer. Just the idea that he had a computer, in his home, was outstanding! When he finished toying with his new toy, he began reading a book entitled, Hunger In America. As he read of the devastation of poverty and food insecurity throughout the United States, he went to the refrigerator to scope out a snack. Just as he feared…the ice box was, virtually, empty. Although he was working at SIUC, their grocery budget was still…thin. What little extra money that they could glean…had gone to Christmas presents, with the focus being on baby David.
As they were walking through the Carbondale Mall they discovered the most lovely of Christmas Nativities. It was not only handmade but hand-painted! The nice lady who fashioned the nativities told them that she would paint their creation in any color that they desired.
Joe and Jane and David had gone to the DuQuoin Walmart, with the express plan to buy a family Christmas Tree, and the ornaments to place upon it, along with a skirt for the tree and some garland, which David later called ‘garlett.’ Jane and Joe wanted to ensure that each Christmas, from David’s first, and soon to come, Daniel’s, first…henceforth would be be memorable…and a celebration of the magic of the season and the birth that it commemorates!
So, there was no holiday leftovers, since they had enjoyed dinner at the in-laws, and he returned to his book on Hunger. Joe pondered that…he and his little family were not far from the people he was reading about.
Joe felt a peace in his heart and a surety in his spirit that his life had improved, immensely, and the promise of the future had limitless possibilities!