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The Fielders' Christmas 1941, Arlington, Texas

Editor’s note: Dorothy Taylor Fielder (age 33 in 1941) was the wife of Robert (Rob) Echols Barnes Fielder (35), one of three sons of James Park (now 79) and Mattie Barnes Fielder (now 74). The two other sons were Cicero (C.B.) (49) (his wife was Rossa McNatt [48]) and James (Jim) Park Jr. (40) (his wife was Hazel Easton [29]). It was James Park, Sr. and Mattie who built (in 1914) what we now call the Historic Fielder House. Explanatory notes have been put in red type and in parentheses.

Because of the uncertainty of everything that has been forever precious clutched at all of our hearts this war Christmas of 1941, I feel that I would like to preserve in details the memory of the Fielder Family Reunion to keep it forever and forever. And so I am writing it down.

It was fifteen years ago that I started making Fielder Christmas Reunions, back in the premarriage days when Rob and I were home from the University (The University of Texas, Austin) for the holidays. He came over to my house in Van Alstyne for our Christmas dinner and then in spite a big snow storm I went home with him to his reunion in Arlington. I was so thrilled that goose bumps just popped out all over me for we were engaged and I realized that I was being taken into the bosom of the family. But what a bosom! And the hilarious, wise-cracking, side-splitting jollity of a Fielder Christmas. I squirmed in my chair the entire first day not knowing what to expect next. But after the first twenty-four hours I just “unlaxed” and enjoyed it as if I had grown up wise-cracking. And with each year that has followed I have felt more and more that I really belonged, especially that Christmas Big Mother (Mattie Barnes Fielder) told me between errands, “Dorothy, it seems you were just born here”.

Every year we have gone home for Christmas. Maudy (Dorothy's mother) has always said that she has us every days (sic) in the year, so she could spare us to the Fielders for Christmas. And so there has been a long unbroken record of them. Each year we look forward to them with the same eagerness and remember them with the same tenderness. In years of depression, in years of prosperity, after sorrow (not sure what sorrow she is referring to), before Judy (Rob and Dorothy's daughter [b. 1931]), the first Christmas after Judy, before Jim (James [Jim] Park III, Rob and Dorothy's son [b. 1936]) - - the one ("one" must mean "year") we received the telegram (we don't know what this was about), the first one after Jim. Year after year we have bundled them up, Christmas stockings, diapers, bottles, sniffles and all to go home for Christmas. Every bed in the dear old house, every room is full to the brim. And this year somehow seemed the dearest of all.

We knew we shouldn’t go until Christmas morning because Big Mother had finally reached the end of her patience and fired Emma (must be the cook) who had just one drunk (sic) to many. But we simply couldn’t wait! So we furiously started packing – gifts, clothes, ourselves – and away we went on the beautiful Christmas Eve of 1941. We ate hamburgers on the way so we wouldn’t be too much trouble and drove up just a little after dark. Father was alone in the sun porch and Big Mother was in the kitchen finishing up. “Brub” Tolbert (James Wade Tolbert I, 26, who in 1937 married Mattie (Pat/Patsy) Fielder (27), James Park and Mattie's granddaughter; the origin or meaning of his nickname is unknown), just in from Victory Field at Vernon, Texas (Victory Field was a military airfield, about 6 miles southwest of Vernon, Texas) was helping her and incidentally waiting for Pat (his wife) and their son (James Wade Tolbert II, born in March of 1941) to meet him there. After we finished up in the kitchen, we sat around and talked till bed time and Jim (James Park II, 40) and Hazel (Hazel Inez Easton, his wife, age 29) visited with us. Big Mother had been upstairs herself to fix our beds all nice and warm and cozy – and we drifted off to sleep happily anticipating the rest of the gang’s arrival next morning.

“What makes breakfast so good at Big Mother’s” Jim III (Rob and Dorothy's son, b. 1936) wondered as he swallowed his sausage, eggs, hot biscuit and drank his orange juice from one of the large delicious oranges that each Christmas convey to Big Mother that Miss Myrtle Thornton (long-time Arlington High School teacher, about 18 years younger than Mattie) loves her like a Mother. Soon after breakfast was cleared away, the “Parson” (Cicero B. [C.B.] Fielder, 49, and a Methodist minister) and his gang arrived (his "gang" would be C.B's wife Rossa McNatt (48), and (1) their son Benjamin Cicero [B.C.] [age 30]) [and his wife Joan [age 27], and B.C. and Joan's very young son, Phil [Phil was born October 28, 1941; see reference in next paragraph] and (2) their son Park Burton [21] (and this Christmas, Burton is bringing Martha Aston [almost 19] to meet the Fielder family).

The first thing that attracted my admiration to the C. B. (Cicero Barnes) Fielders before I ever knew about Rob was that they seemed so sincerely to love and enjoy each other. And that feeling seems to have deepened with the years. Cicero’s laugh and Rossa’s own sweet voice, Mattie’s echo of it, the slow drawl of Helen’s (Helen Frances Fielder, 15-year old daughter of C. B. and Rossa) and the little gurgle that is Jim Boy’s... Jim Boy, the apple of his father’s eye (Jim Boy [b. 1936, now 5 years old], the son on Rob E.B. and Dorothy Fielder) – and suddenly the little sun porch was ringing with Fielder voices which Rob managed to record in all their hub-bub, so preserving for us a typical Fielder greeting. And shortly after in rolled B. C. and Joan proudly bearing for Big Mother’s and Father’s inspection their new little son Phil, all cuddly, clean and so fine (he was born October 28, 1941). And Burton brought along for the family inspection Martha Aston from Farmersville (Burton, age 21, and Martha Aston, almost 19, were later married) who bore up beautifully under the barrage of Fielder folly.

And since everyone was there, we went to the living room where Jim, Hazel and Brub had decorated beautifully the Christmas tree. And the wise-cracks of Santa Claus Jim (James Park II) were supplemented and recorded by his brother Rob as all from the youngest to the eldest received their gifts.

Afterwards followed the same delicious dinner that is always a certainty of Big Mother’s fare. After blessing by Cicero (because of his position in the church) there was roasted turkey (roasted by Jim and Hazel) Mother’s own hot rolls, vegetables and salads and all their trimmings, fruit, chocolate and pineapple cake, by Rossa, Lula Bill and me, and best of all the big pitcher of Big Mother’s ambrosia, the likes of which she alone can possibly make. With so much co-operation, dish-washing was soon over, even without Emma.

The men retired in state to the living room to discuss the farm program for next year at great length and gusto and to declare this year’s dividends, which could not have possibly been so large, other than when the farm was under the hand of Father, truly a wizard of the soil not only in the family’s eye but all the real farmers who know him well. And the women laughingly spoke of how they planned to spend their money. But each one knew she was joking for dividends from the farm except in great emergency were to be saved or invested - the nest egg to keep for the grand-children as part of the heritage of Thrift which was their birthright.

Before the crowd dissembled Rob made another recording, this time, “The Night before Christmas” begun by Jim III and closed in Father’s own dear voice with each verse between spoken by a different Fielder.

And too soon the reunion began to end and B. C., Joan, little Phil, Burton and Martha had to say goodbye. The rest of the gang stayed for another attack on the turkey and ambrosia and another night’s sleep in Big Mother’s beds. After I retired with the children I heard Rob’s, Big Mother’s, and Father’s voices directly below and drifted off to sleep wondering what they were speaking.

And then it was breakfast time again – one dozen scrambled eggs, “at forty cents a dozen” – and country ham and all the rest. Then came the rush of saying goodbye. And because there were no vegetables or fruit for Father to bring in from his wonderful garden or orchard, as he always does when we start home, Mother gave us all a big sack of oranges—just another little symbol of how she loves to give food things to her children.

Mattie, Jim Boy, and Brub came home with us and we were so glad to spread out just for a little while longer the love and fun and joy of sharing Christmas cheer with some of our very own. And on this Christmas 1941 which we shall always lovingly remember, we pray with Tiny Tim “God Bless us All” and grant us many happy reunions.