First Christmas Candy Kisses
Other than Valentine’s Day, no other holiday is a better excuse to express romance and “new love” than Christmas. Many people around the world, received or got their first kiss, their marriage proposal, or were married during the Christmas holidays. Nothing like a little “holiday love” to inspire the fires of love poems within us.
Nor, is there nothing like a holiday tradition, to give you an excuse to say, or show what you’ve been thinking. This is the genuine story of one boy, and his expression of love on Christmas eve. It’s also the story of my grandmother’s first kiss.
Christmas in July
Each summer my younger brother and I would sleep out on army cots in my grandmother's corn fields. We were out there because crows had taken to plundering Gram's corn. By night we heard bedtime stories of her childhood, and at sun up, we awoke to the sounds of buckshot and her excited glee at getting even with the enemy.
One such summer night, I begged her to tell me about her "first kiss." The subject of kissing had recently the attention of my third grade mind, due to some dumb boy chasing me on the playground at school, threatening to kiss me, if he caught me.
Of course, at the thought of hearing a "girl" story about icky kissing, my little brother immediately wailed -- that he wanted to hear a story about bears, or tigers or anything, but mushy stuff. I guess that was the expected reaction of a boy, who still slept in his coon skin Davey Crockett hat.
"I'll tell you a story about first kisses, love poems, Christmas gifts, and bears, she promised."
Here is that Christmas first kiss story that she told us so long ago:
Hillsboro, Jefferson County, Missouri - 1925
"That Christmas I was around fourteen years old and Charley, who was a neighbor was fifteen years old. We both went to the same school, as back then the only school was a one room school house. We lived about two miles out. His father's farm joined ours. I was the oldest child in our family. Charley was the oldest in his family."
"We had as lively and pleasant teacher that year, Mr. Gibbs. Some of the parents said he was too full of fun for a school teacher, and that he should have had more dignity.
But in those days, as well as today, a teacher could be found fault with, even if he were made to order. All the kids in the school adored him, even if some of the grownups didn't."
"That Christmas, Mr. Gibbs got us a Christmas tree and placed it in the school house for our school party. Some of the parents grumbled about that. They said it took our minds off our books, and Mr. Gibbs' mind from his duties as a teacher. Nevertheless, we had the tree and the party."
"Two or three days before Christmas, when I opened my spelling book, I found between the pages, a little note scribbled in red ink, on a piece of paper torn from a school copy book. It read like this:
"'Miss Daisy - Esteemed Miss. I take my pen in hand to wish you a Merry Christmas and to send you my best wishes. I wish to ask the pleasure of your company to the party to be held here on Friday night.'
'Hoping you will send me an answer that you will go with me and that I may get it soon. I am your true friend and admirer. Charley Bruns. P.S. My pen is bad, my ink is pale. My love for you shall never fail!'"
"Well, I nearly fainted, since I'd never even guessed he thought of me at all in that way. At the top of the page, Charley had drawn a dove in blue and red ink. It looked more like a turkey, sitting on a tree that was not half as big as the bird. The memory of this now, is as clear in my mind, as if the whole thing took place yesterday."
"Although my brother and I walked home with Charley that afternoon, as we did every afternoon -- I was too embarrassed to say anything about the note. But the next day, I slipped my own note in my best penmanship into his arithmetic at lunch."
"Mister Charley B. Bruns - Kind Sir: Herein find my acceptance of your company at the Christmas party.”
"By seven o'clock Friday evening, I was ready to start for the school house party. My uncle Phil was always full of fun and an awful tease. Of course, he made the most of this opportunity."
"When Charley knocked on the door, Uncle Phil opened it and said:
'Come in Charley! Come right in! Going to act as a beau tonight? Hey? Purty dark night for you to be out alone, ain't it? They say a man saw a bear in the woods today. Better look out! Jake Simpson says he saw tracks of some monstrous big bear in the frost this morning near Calvey Church. Don't you let it eat up my Daisy or little Phil.'
"I was so proud when Charles answered him quite promptly - 'He'd have to eat me first, Sir!'"
"My Aunt Dora, who enjoyed any innocent pleasantry laughed. She asked, 'Has your mother put anything on the tree for you?'"
"I don't know," replied Charles.
"Well, I'm sending a Christmas cake over for your baby sister Prissy, and one for you too. Mind, you don't drop them, if that bear out in the woods gets after you."
"Charley blushed and moved nervously in his chair, but he finally mustered up enough courage to say, "Well I guess we'd better go, Miss Owen."
"That, 'Miss Owen' comment, amused my uncle and aunt very much. We could hear them laughing after we got out onto the porch, my little brother trailing behind us."
Hearts of Candy
"Charley was wonderfully fixed up. His hair oil was so thick on his head, that it had white spots where it had hardened in the cold Missouri air. He had a white collar over his flannel shirt, with a green ribbon necktie run through a brass ring.
His blue handkerchief was scented with cinnamon drops. He also obviously had on his father's much too big overcoat."
"I think we had gone half-way to school before either of us could think of a word to say. Then, Charley pulled his hand out of his pocket and held it out to me, saying only,
"He had given me a handful of candy hearts!"
"There's readin' on 'em," he continued after we'd gone another half mile.
"Is there?" I answered hesitatingly.
"Yes. Its real purty, some of it. I saved them since last Valentine's."
"After that, Charley became less constrained and more confident."
"I know something," he whispered.
"Of course, I was very much amazed at that pronouncement and responded, "Do you?"
"Yes," exclaimed Charley emphatically.
"What is it?"
"Oh, nothing! Only there's going to be something on the tree for everybody."
"Of course," I inferred that he meant me, but I didn't think it would be quite proper to say so. So, I remained silent."
"After a pause, he impulsively exclaimed with a grin, 'You expect to get anything off the tree?'"
"Well, you will. I could tell you who put it on the tree for you, if I had a mind to!"
"Yes. And it cost a whole seventy-five cents!"
“I’ll tell you if you give me a kiss back,’ he said, and before I knew it he gave me a quick peck on my cheek, right in front of my little brother.
"I glanced back at my little brother, whose big ears were perked up, taking in everything that was being said. I just knew he was going to tell the whole world, and that made me nervous. He had that goofy grin, I knew all too well. The one that said he knew a secret that wasn't going to be a secret for very long."
A Little Kiss For Christmas
Seventy-five Cents Worth of Christmas
"The rest of the way to school Charley was silent. This gave me time to digest the important facts about what just happened. Just as we got to the school door, Charley blurt out, "I had seventy-five cents just before Christmas, but now I ain't got it. I don't care if I don't either."
"Then I knew, of course, that he wished me to know that he had put seventy-five cents worth of something on the tree for me. I was trying to ignore the kiss part of the walk. I’d never been kissed before, and I wasn’t sure what I thought about that other than he seemed awfully forward, even if we had known each other all our lives.”
"It seemed to me that the proper thing for me to do would be to place something on the tree for him. Was I ever in a dilemma. I had nothing to give Charley. Suddenly, I remembered that I had in my pocket, a pair of red striped mittens that I had knitted for my brother. They were a little small, but that didn't matter."
Now, I concluded that the least I could do, in return for Charley's generosity to me, was to put them on the tree for Charley, instead of Phil. When we got to the party, acting on this conclusion, I placed them on the tree, after hastily making a new Christmas tag on them."
Be True to the Giver of Hearts
"The tree was so beautiful to our unaccustomed eyes, seeing glass ornaments that none of our families could afford. The old school was full of people. Mr. Gibbs, as each present as taken from the tree, read the name of the boy or girl to whom it belonged. When my name was called, I marched up. and what do you think that awkward boy had put there for me?
Well, it was a big china doll's head and a candy heart, as big as a lunch pie, with "Be True to the Giver" on it, in large gilt letters."
"Now, unknown to me, my brother knew that I had made the mittens for him. All evening, he kept pointing at them, as they dangled from the tree, saying to his friends around him - 'Them's my mittens! Them red striped ones are going to be for me!"
"Well, as you can imagine, what followed when they were called for, 'Master Charley. My baby brother fairly screeched in his indignation and exclaimed, "Them ain't for Charley, they're mine! My sister Daisy made 'em and she didn't make 'em for no Charley Brun neither!"
Of course, there was a roar of laughter all over the school room. Little Phil began to cry, but Charley kept the mittens. I actually had to give my brother a bite from my candy. I promised to make him a new pair of mittens in green yarn (his favorite color) to quiet him down about the whole thing."
Uncle Henry Owen The Poet
"Well, when the presents had all been given out, Charley, Phil, and I left for home. Charley talked about nothing, but that doll's head and heart, and how splendid they were, and how much they cost him. So, he was quite pleased with his self. Personally, I was glad he was talking, because then he wouldn’t be trying to kiss me again. One kiss was enough to last me.”
"We hadn't gone very far, when old Uncle Henry Owen overtook us. He was a singular old man full of humor. I hardly think that Walt Whitman himself could make rhymes and poems easier than Uncle Henry. His head was full of such things. Family members always did whisper that he could say his prayers in poetry. He was in the best of holiday spirits, and when he saw us, he held his lantern up to our faces, and exclaimed, "Is that you, Daisy Owen?" Well, well."
"It may in truth be said by some
That Charley Brun beaued you some;
I blame you not to make a spark
That'll light you home when it is dark."
"If that wasn't embarrassing enough, he gave Charley a poke with his cane, and off he went ahead of us laughing his fool head off. Thank goodness we were nearly home and crossing our pasture.
Are There Any Bears In The Woods?
"To change the subject I said, 'I wonder if there really are any bears in the woods?'"
"Phil instantly grabbed my had and shuttered. We all knew occasionally there really were bears in those days, in Jefferson County."
"Well, you'll be all right, if there are bears," replied Charley, quite bravely, even if his voice did break. Just as he said that, something big and black jumped up from under an old apple tree, that stood a little distance to our right. It stood still for a moment, but when we moved, it jumped back."
"There is a bear!" screamed Phil. Charley was trembling so hard, I could feel him even if I couldn't see him in the dark. And I couldn't hardly breathe, I was so scared."
"The animal made another move and Charley made a spring also. He actually got around the other side of me and Phil, so that we were between him and the animal. I swooped up my little brother ,and started to run past the tree as fast as my feet would carry me to the safety of the house, leaving Charley behind screeching. The whole way, I was sure from his cries, that the bear was eating him up!"
A Bear! A Bear!
"Reaching the house, I threw my little brother inside along with myself and started screaming, "A bear! A bear! Charley! A bear . . . . under the old apple tree in the pasture." With those proclamations, I fell down into a dead faint. The candy heart and the doll's head both broken to pieces under me."
"My uncle and older male cousins took lanterns and guns, as they started for the apple tree as fast as they could run, while my aunt put me to bed."
"Don't tell us that poor Charles was killed . . . even if he was a coward," cried my little brother to my Aunt.
"When they got within twenty yards or so of the tree, all was still, but in the dimness the form of a large animal could be made out."
"You hold the lantern' said my Uncle to one of the boys, 'and I'll shoot the beast. I'm afraid it's all over for Charley."
"But just as Uncle was taking aim, he heard a quivering voice whisper: 'Don't shoot, Mr. Owen. It ain't no bear. Please get me loose."
"They ran over to the tree and in the next moment, they were laughing so boisterously, that we could hear them back at the house."
"You see, we had a big black calf about nine months old, that had always been kept fenced in. That day, my Uncle had moved a part of the fence to enlarge the corral. To keep the calf from running away or getting into mischief, the hired man had taken a long rope and tied the calf to the tree out in the pasture. He forgot to tell my Uncle about the calf."
"When Charley, Phil, and I came along, the calf jumped up. It was no doubt as scared as we were. Then I ran."
"Charley, in his fright, thought that the safest place for him to escape a bear, was to climb the tree. As he was rushing for it, the half-crazed calf, tore around the tree in a circle. Before he realized what had happened and could get out of the way, the calf had wound a coil of rope around him. It kept on runnin' around and around, until it had bound poor Charley tightly to the tree."
"Completely helpless to get the rope off him, he just started crying. My uncle and the boys were on the ground laughing so hard, they too were crying."
"Charley said, that when he felt the rope winding around him, he thought it was a boa constrictor, like the one in a story our teacher had read us. After the ordeal, Uncle said he was so pale, that when the lantern was held to his face, the freckles showed like spots on a turkey egg. Charley was so angry because they laughed at him, that once freed, he lay down on the ground and fairly bellowed."
"At any rate, after that I never was a favorite of his. The adventure and the laughter at his cowardice, effectually cured him of courting me, and that was the end of my first big romance. He never did give me another Christmas kiss."
Chased By a Bear
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