Christmas Salesman at Age Six: A lesson in the spirit of giving
It all took place in our Ballard neighborhood in north Seattle in 1947. I was six. My mom was the catalyst for my new found career. Well, Mom and the single large holly tree crowding the sidewalk. Taller than my dad and fatter than our kitchen table, it sported thousands of stiff, sharp pointed green leaves and clusters of bright red berries.
Mom called me into the kitchen and said, “Grab a cookie and follow me. I’ve got an idea. If you’ll help me cut off some of these holly branches together we can make some Christmas wreaths. You can sell them in our neighborhood.”
“Really?” I was so proud that mom was giving me a responsibility like this.
She added, “I’ll let you keep all the money you get so you can buy Christmas gifts. Does that sound good to you?”
I nodded vigorously.
I raced into the shed and dragged out the six foot step-ladder to the front of the house. We both donned our work gloves; mine were way too big. I held the ladder for Mom and heard the clippers at work. Then she stepped off the ladder and surprised me by handing me the clippers. I’d never used the sharp, pointed tool before.
Soon Mom said, “I think we have cut enough for one day. Let’s start making the wreaths.”
It took three trips to carry our bundles into the garage. I wrapped the wire for Mom while she shaped the holly into circles. The sharp leaves often poked my hand, but I didn’t complain.
After several hours of hard work, we had a large stack of arrangements finished. The garage floor was a mess, my fingers hurt, and I was tired, but the experience of doing something new made me feel a bit older.
The next morning, I trotted downstairs and went directly to the garage to stare at my load of ten wreaths, tucked into my Radio Flyer wagon, just as I had left them.
As ten o’clock approached, the reality of going door-to-door on my own began to sink in.
Suddenly, it felt as if there were a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. Mom appeared out of nowhere and asked, “Are you ready to head out?’
I nodded, but must have looked scared because she knelt down, held my shoulders and looked me in the eye. “You can do this, Eddie. I’ll tag along and keep watch from the sidewalk. I’ll stay just one house behind you.” After her encouragement, I felt better.
When I reached the front porch of the first house, I hesitated and glanced back at my mom. Then, I took a deep breath and knocked as firmly as I could. I was greeted by a friendly lady who was very enthusiastic about my wares. She happily paid the two-dollar price to buy one. Mom gave me a huge smile. I sure felt good about my first sale.
In a little over an hour, Mom and I danced home with an empty wagon. The success of selling every wreath so easily filled me with boundless excitement. Mom pronounced, “We’ll make some more, but tomorrow will be the last day of selling.”