I remember that it was bitterly cold that morning. By the time I walked down the steps with my brothers and sisters, the snow was already to my thighs. The wind blew our breath back into our faces and we felt like we couldn’t go on…almost. With our heads down, we plodded onward There were no snow days in Salamanca back in the mid-50’s.
I was only six that winter. There were five kids in the family and as time would pass, the number would increase to a total of eight Moran kids of various ages and shapes and sizes, but that winter, I was the youngest school age child of Betty and Mike. Looking back, there is so little of those early years that I remember, but for some reason, putting socks on my hands to ward off the cold has stayed with me.
That’s right! Socks. We were very poor back then. My dad was a housepainter, and who wants their house painted in the dead of winter? It seemed that Christmas was always lacking in big, fancy toys under the tree. But we didn’t know, as kids, what being poor or being middle class were; let alone the concept of some people being rich. I am not even sure if there were such creatures in that small town in upstate New York back then…rich, I mean. At least, we didn’t know any rich folk.
Salamanca was a very small town; some would say quaint in today’s terminology. There was a main street that ran but a few blocks, with a movie house at one end and a ragged train station at the other with a few shops in-between. How we loved the train station, though, as there was a penny candy glass case there that we would press our noses against on our way home from school. Once in a while, some grown-up would flip us a nickel and it was as though we won the lottery. It was an odd little town as it was located on Seneca Indian land that was leased to the townspeople, so people could own their buildings but not the land on which they sat. But I digress.
Socks. The memory of that winter’s day may stick with me as it was a day that started out so freakishly cold to the little boy with freckles and big ears. Imagine seeing a child (children, but this is my Matchstick Story for Christmas) with no hat and uncut hair blowing in the wind. A threadbare, hand-me-down coat and no boots offered little protection from the nasty weather. I remember walking backwards as a means of moving forward as it was just too much for me to make any progress walking directly into winter’s onslaught.
I remember it was hard to make a snowball without a thumb as my tiny hands were completely closed in with my socks-for-mittens ensemble. As a small cadre of Moran kids plowing forward towards the warmth of our school, we surely made quite a site. Somehow, and without too many long lasting psychological scars from poverty, we managed to grow up and raise families of our own, but at that time and that place, trying to keep from freezing was our immediate goal.
And one day, the miracle happened. At least to us it seemed like a miracle. My mother got a call from the “big store”, the two story department store at the end of Main. It seemed that a person, who wished to remain anonymous, instructed the store to contact the “socks” family. The store was to invite the family in, and treat them with absolute respect. Each child was to choose whatever coat, hat, mittens, boots and scarves that suited their fancy, and he (or she, come to think of it after all these years) would pay for everything.
You would have thought that the Moran’s succeeded in finding the proverbially bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow. Real to goodness winter clothes, all for our very own and never having been worn by anyone else. It had enough of an impact on me that I still think of those “socks-on-the-hands” days of yesteryear, some 59+ years later. The kindness and generosity of one person for the plight of others was not even part of my ability to understand as such a small boy. All I knew was that I dared it to snow and blow the rest of that year because little Danny Moran was ready!
I understand that in this day and age, a time when there is a store to meet every person’s financial profile, from Goodwill to Bloomingdales, that we seldom hear of kids who do not have mittens to shield them from the cold. The key is that we seldom hear of such kids, but let me assure you, they are still out there. Some of them may live in your neighborhood. Oh, they act tough and go out without any protection against the cold, trying to act cool. Sadly, they are just that. Cool to freezing.
My point? When you see an angel tree at a church or bank or wherever, pull one of the angels off and get the toy shown, and maybe go a little overboard and wrap up some age-appropriate hats and mitts too. Or give to the next person who volunteers their time to raise funds for the kids in your city or town. Most police departments take kids shopping, and need your help financially. Twenty bucks to you and me may seem like chump change, but you have the power to create a miracle for some big-eared, freckle faced kid who will truly appreciate your act of kindness and generosity. You can change a life with a simple act of kindness.
There is a Toys-For-Tots box at Calumet Park Cemetery, Funeral Chapel and Rendina Funeral Home. Drop off a present and if you can, a couple of pairs of gloves or mittens would not be refused. If it is not being to presumptuous, new would be nice. And let me thank that Salamanca savior once more.
Merry Christmas to all. And don’t forget the reason for the season…Happy Birthday to the Lord, Jesus.