The Ten Cent Christmas

When my aunt was a recently married bride (she was eighteen), she and her husband were very poor. They lived in a shanty. Jack was an ordinary airman in the airforce and the pay was not intended to support both him and a wife. However, my aunt was beautiful and he was dashing in his uniform and they, like many young couples, were full of hope. Love, they believed, could overcome all problems.

Their first Christmas all they had between them was ten cents. Mind you ten cents still meant something. You could buy something with ten cents. It was two third of a  haircut, for example. It was two thirds of a ticket to a movie. It was two ice cream cones. Still, it was just ten cents.

They set up a tree and decorated it with what they were able to make.

My aunt went to the butcher shop and she said to the butcher, “Can I get some hamburger for ten cents?”

And the butcher, who had known her all his life for this was a small town, Gimli, Manitoba, where nearly everyone was related by blood or marriage even though new interlopers like my uncle were appearing because an airbase was being built for the war effort in Europe, said, “Sure, Florence.” And he took her dime.

He went to the back, away from the counter and, when he returned, he gave her a package wrapped in brown waxed paper and tied with butcher’s string.

When she got home and opened the package, there was the hamburger and with it, short ribs and steak.

My aunt is in her eighties now and in a nursing home but she has never forgotten that Christmas. She’s told me about it many times over the years and I’m always happy to hear and re-hear it.  

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