Edythe Sealey is articulate with a clear memory of her nearly 102 years, having grown up on a Nebraska wheat farm and later living in Manteca and Ripon. Her cherished Christmas memories are tucked away like sugarplums in her head.
They also raised chicken fryers on that farm with numerous hay stacks out in the fields.
Sealey helped decorate the tree at Bethany Assisted Living facility Tuesday with other residents who are making it their home in their senior years. Sealey was quick to point out that Christmas in the 21st century is much different than the ones she celebrated with her two brothers and a sister and their parents on the family’s wheat and hay farm in the Midwest.
Born in Wolback, NE, she remembers her family would spend days and sometimes weeks getting ready to celebrate the holiday in their farm home. Gluing together small colored construction art paper into rings they would connect them together before stringing them on a very unique tree in their home along with strings of popcorn all took a long time.
“Because we were very particular with our decorations and didn’t have pine trees, our dad Henry Lyons, would cut a six foot branch off of the pear tree out in front of our home that year and we decorated it,” she said. “After it was set up in our home we would hang the decorations we had made along with newly cut-out paper snowflakes.”
Sealey said the children had no fireplace to hang their socks and instead used chairs placed around the room. Come Christmas morning and the cold of the season, their Dad had to get up and warm the house with an old wood stove with their Mom Lillian checking to see that her children were still in bed.
“My sister and I would run to call Dad to get up,” she recalled.
“Dad, get up and warm the house – it’s Christmas – and Santa has already been here!” they would shout.
She added they knew he had come. “We had already looked, you know.”
Sealey said that as soon as the house was warm, they could come out of their bedrooms in the eight room house. Their mother gave each one of them their Christmas packages. She and her sister had both gotten rocking beds for their dolls that had been their special presents the year before.
Their mom had made use of round, elongated Quaker oatmeal boxes. They had been cut in half and transformed into rocking beds for those dolls.
“She had put a mattress and a little pillow in each one. As I opened my gift it was my doll ‘Anna’ that I had really loved from the year before. The doll had been broken and no longer talked when she was lifted up saying ‘Momma.’”
“I said, ‘Oh, she can talk again.’”
Her mother responded saying, “We sent her to the hospital and they fixed her talker!”
Anna, the doll, had been dressed in pantaloons with lace trim and wearing a short dress with full sleeves and she was so pretty.
“I loved her so very much!” Sealey said.
She remembers that she then went to check her sock hanging over a chair in the living room.
“We always got an orange because we didn’t grow oranges in Nebraska. There was also a pair of mittens and a stocking cap to keep us warm. We made popcorn balls and homemade fudge – so we had a really good Christmas,” she chimed. “I was lucky to have been raised in a Christian home where as a farm family we sang Christmas carols and church hymns together.”
Her dad also worked delivering mail using a wagon and horses for the post office in those old days, she added.
She would later marry Curley Sealey and they would have two girls and two boys who would know a completely different Christmas from that of their parents’ youth. They would have a regular fir tree and live in a three-story home in Central City, Nebraska.
The Sealeys had a full basement they used to prepare for Christmas after their children went to bed for the night. They bought three used sleds and painted them for the kids along with a table and two chairs using orange crates.
“They appreciated their sleds as much as the kids of today enjoy their many gifts,” she said.
Of those kids the Sealeys raised, only one is living today, Darlene Rae Downes of Ripon. The others who have passed and remembered by their mother were Donna Mae Lindsey, Donald Cleo Sealey and Darwin Dean Sealey.
Seaaley was a regular around downtown Manteca where she worked for the Brown-Mahin Department Store at the corner of Main Street and Yosemite Avenue for 17 years. The couple was married for 55 years prior to moving to Ripon.