WILKES-BARRE – More than 50 years later, Jeanne Lynch Habblett still doesn't know where the presents came from.
With Christmas approaching in 1961 and her father out of work, her mother was keenly aware the holiday was going to be lean.
We had seven kids in the house, three of them young, Habblett said. Fortunately, my sister and I both had part-time jobs and were able to purchase gifts for the little ones.
Habblett and her mother wrapped gifts for all the kids, decorated the tree and then went to bed.
I knew there were no gifts under the tree for me, but I understood the circumstances, she said. On Christmas morning I awoke to the squeals of the kids as they ran downstairs.
Habblett got out of bed and went down, greeted by smiles everywhere.
Then my mom said ‘There is a stack of gifts for you,' Habblett said. I looked at her and then at the tree. Sure enough, there was a stack in the corner that wasn't there at 2 a.m. when I went to bed.
Habblett said she had a Christmas prom in a few days and there under the tree were a new dress and shoes. There were also two other new outfits.
When I got her alone and asked her how this happened, she only said that she didn't buy them, Habblett said. Till the day she died she would not tell me where she got the gifts.
Habblett was 17 and for the first time in a long time, she started to believe in Santa Claus.
I knew I was blessed with a very special mom, but how she provided for the seven of us always surprised me, she said.
That Christmas instilled a strong family bond within the seven children, Habblett said.
Which to this day, 51 years later, helps me through difficult times, she said.
Angie Mislivets of Hanover Township remembers when she was a child the family didn't have a lot. She said she didn't know what it was like to have parents who were able to provide their kids lots of Christmas presents.
Mislivets remembers the landlord's kids living downstairs in the building, playing with them and seeing their tree on Christmas day.
I remember seeing so many brightly colored unwrapped packages and it made me wonder if everybody's house was like this, she said.
So Mislivets had a plan – she wasn't going to be embarrassed.
I went upstairs to our apartment and I looked for empty boxes to wrap, she said. I wrapped some with brown paper bags from the grocery store. I just didn't want to be embarrassed when those kids came up to see what Santa left for me.
Katrina Domkowski, 28, of Dallas, liked to decorate early for Christmas, but her father wouldn't allow it until his birthday – Dec. 5. She said became a family tradition to decorate the house for Christmas on her daddy's birthday.
But between Thanksgiving and Dec. 5, Domkowski would plead with her father to let her start decorating earlier. He wouldn't relent.
So as his birthday gift every year, at 7 a.m., she would wake her father with Christmas music.
The living room would be an explosion of lights, garland, decorations and ornaments, she said. Dad would spend the first six hours of his birthday getting our home into the Christmas spirit.
Rosalie Hourigan of Wilkes-Barre said her 8-year-old granddaughter, Abby Hourigan of Collegeville, touched her heart by writing, or rather printing, the following letter to the tooth fairy:
Dear Mrs. or Mr. Tooth Fairy, I was wondering if this time, instead of money, you could leave me a canned good for the poor. But if you can't I understand. So please write back. Sinsirly, Ally. P.S. Don't forget the tooth! PPS: Can't read cursive.
So of course little Abby got a printed, not cursive, letter from the tooth fairy. Suffice to say the poor will undoubtedly get a canned good and her grandmother has a warm feeling knowing her granddaughter has the Christmas spirit.
Times Leader staff writer Mary Therese Biebel contributed to this story.