By Linda Ibbitson Hurd
Special to the Express
Asa Wallace was the father of four children. His oldest daughter Ceara was 19, attended a local college and earned money babysitting. His second oldest, Ben, was 17 then Joel fourteen. Both boys had after school jobs two days a week, which they alternated at the market in their small town. The youngest, Cassy who was 12, was just starting to babysit.
Asa was short on communication and sensitivity and long on gruffness but he loved his family and was a good provider. He wished his job in construction paid more but with the help of his wife Jane who drove a school bus and was very good at managing their finances, they managed. Where Asa was gruff Jane was the heart of their home.
Summer had ended and the fall season was in full swing. Asa had seen an advertisement in Yankee magazine for a build-it-yourself grandfather clock that came with plans and all the parts. The ad showed a picture of what the clock would look like all put together and the cost was affordable. Jane had always wanted one and he was thinking about it for Christmas. Asa started saving money. He was sure he could put it together and have it ready for Christmas and his parents who lived nearby offered to let him use their garage to work on it. Very unlike him, he even showed the ad to his son Ben who thought it was a nice idea.
Ben told his sister Ceara what their father had planned to do for their mother for Christmas. She was surprised her dad told Ben but was excited and thought it a great idea. She knew how long her mother had wanted a grandfather clock and how much she would love it.
Asa picked up a part time job on Saturdays operating a backhoe at a sand pit loading dump trucks so he would not have to take money out of his paycheck to save for the clock. He had to send for the plans in October to have the clock finished and ready by Christmas. The third week into October the weather turned very cold and there was a heavy snowstorm. All the work at the sand pit came to a halt and it wasn’t sure when they would be back up and running. He was eighty dollars short and could not send for the clock.
His family noticed he seemed more short-tempered than usual but it happened from time to time and they steered clear of him. Jane was used to his moods and didn’t think too much of it. Then he took Joel to task saying a “C” was too low a grade to get on one of his tests. He also got angry at Ceara’s boy friend saying 11 o’clock was too late to get home from a party. Then he got upset at Cassy and told her she shouldn’t take phone calls after seven at night. He was upsetting the entire household and Jane and the kids were upset.
Jane tried to talk with him to see if there was something wrong and he became very argumentative. She told him he was turning his kids against him with his behavior by getting on them about every little thing.
Asa went down cellar after Jane told him he better do something about himself. He started working on a lamp that needed fixing when Ben came down to see if he could find out what was troubling his father.
“Hey dad, looks like you’re in the dog house.” Asa just grunted. Ben tried again. “How’s it going with the clock?”
“Not too good!”
“How’s that?”, asked Ben.
In his gruff way Asa came back with, “Well, I lost my Saturday Job!” he yelled.
“You mean that’s how you were paying for the clock?”
“Well ya, what’ya think!”
“Well,” said Ben, “I didn’t realize that’s why you took the job, you just said they needed you.”
“They don’t need me now!” exclaimed Asa. “Well, maybe some other place might need some part time help?” Ben suggested. “Extra work’s hard enough to find right now with such cold temperatures and all the snow and ice.”
Ben looked at his father, “How much do you need?”
“I’m eighty dollars short, I’ll have to wait until next year,” Asa said looking down at the floor.
“You better get your homework done Ben, I have to finish up down here.”
“Okay dad.” Ben went upstairs to look for Ceara.
Ben told her what happened.
“So that’s what’s been going on! Why doesn’t he ever tell us anything?” Ceara sighed, saying “He makes you so mad you just don’t even want to care.”
“True.” said Ben, “But we do care, he’s really in a spot.” Just then Joel came looking for Ceara to get some help with his homework and Cassy came bounding into Ceara’s room as well.
“How come everyone’s in here?” Cassy wanted to know. Ben looked at Ceara,
“We might as well tell them, dad’s never going to.” Ceara nodded and they told Joel and Cassy why their dad had been in such a bad mood. “It’s hard to feel sorry for him,” said Cassy,
“He gets so awful sometimes,”
“Tell me about it,” said Joel.
Ben said, “I know but he also works really hard and this is something he really wanted to do for mom and if it were us that needed help, he’d help us.”
“Ya, after he yelled at us!” said Cassy. After a good laugh they tried to figure out how to help.
Asa came up from the cellar late that night. Jane had kept his supper warm in the oven and she and the kids had gone to bed. Asa was feeling pretty miserable about not having enough money to get the clock and also about upsetting his family. After he ate he got ready for bed. Jane was sleeping soundly as he started to get into bed and he was careful not to wake her. He noticed something sticking out from under his pillow. He pulled out a long white envelope and walked down the hall to the bathroom to open it so he wouldn’t disturb Jane. He turned on the bathroom light and opened the envelope. It was full of paper money and change. There was a note with it that read, Merry Christmas Dad, love Ben, Ceara, Joel and Cassy. When Asa counted it there was eighty dollars. A tear rolled down his cheek and his heart burst with love and pride as he realized what his children had done for him.
The clock came out beautifully and Mom loved it. It’s still in our family to this day. It lives in my brother’s house still happily telling the hours as it chimes away. Dad was never one to say he was sorry but we knew he was by the better way he treated us.
(Linda Ibbitson Hurd is a Halifax resident who grew up in Hanson and from time to time writes about her childhood memories. She shares these remembrances of Christmases past with our readers.)