Life’s Reflections: Yorkshire Woman Knows True Meaning Of Giving

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Cathy Liening shared her "Christmas story" with this columnist at the Ansonia Lumber Company's Wooden Toy Contest. She entered a cradle, shown in the background just right of the top of her head, in the contest. (Linda Moody photo)

Yes, I covered the Ansonia Lumber Company’s Wooden Toy Contest on Saturday and met some new people.

One of those people, Cathy Ann Liening of Yorkshire, one of the entrants and the grandmother of three contestants in the youth division, had penned the following, showed it to me, and I knew I had to share it. Here it goes:

Huddled on rough-cut benches in the chilly front storage room of the Ansonia Lumber Company, I sat amazed at how it had been transformed into the scene of the Annual Wooden Toy Contest. A museum-quality fire engine, hobby horse, jewelry box, and chess set, among others, all delicately crafted out of wood, sat on tables made from slabs of wood, and saw horses.

Here is a close-up of the baby and cradle a special child will be receiving this Christmas, thanks to Cathy Liening of Yorkshire. (Linda Moody photo)

During the summer, my husband, Roger, and I had helped three of our grandchildren build items to enter into the toy show. The trio experienced the satisfaction of creating a doll bed, mini ping-pong game, and wobble board with their hands as they learned to measure, sand, drill, and hammer their way to the end product. We reminded our little elves that the goal of this endeavor was not about winning a prize. The main purpose consisted of donating the toys to less fortunate children in the area.

To begin the event, the judge, Scott Phillips, host of the PBS show The American Woodshop, placed a challenge before the audience.

“Think of your most memorable Christmas,” he said. “Then think about how the toy you made might become part of some child’s most memorable Christmas.”

The judge only called on one person to share their Christmas story, which was fine considering the circumstances, with everyone anxiously waiting to hear the winners of the toy contest before the entries would be carted away by the local charity organization.

While he started to describe the items on display for the judging, I continued to ponder the question posed by the judge, wondering which one of the past 66 Christmases I would pick for my most memorable. As Scrooge was transported back to old Fezziwig’s by the ghost of Christmas Past, I found myself whisked back to age ten on Dec. 25, 1963. A year earlier, my father had died, leaving my mother and I alone, in need of financial security. Since she had been a nurse before I was born, that became her means of employment once again. Being the new hire, she was a low-person on the work schedule, with her name appearing on the list for the Christmas day shift. Disappointed because she wanted to spend the holiday with me, she finagled her way into getting the supervisor to approve Mom’s request to have me accompany her at work on that special day. This became a reality mostly because it was a different time when things like that could be arranged, but also because she worked on the pediatric floor of the hospital. Mom assigned me the job of playing with the children who were well enough to go to the activity room but unable to go home.

I remember feeling very important for a 10-year-old being given this type of responsibility. I got to hold a baby and feed her a bottle. I played blocks with a young girl recovering from surgery. But the most fun was playing with a little boy named Eddie, who weaseled his way into everyone’s heart with his humorous antics. My mom had told me about the day he tried to go to the bathroom on his own when the nursing staff heard a loud commotion down the hall. They rushed toward the noise only to find Eddie had fallen into the toilet, flailing his tiny arms and legs, his bottom and body deep inside the commode, head bobbing, yelled, “Get me out, I fall in.” He just had that certain sparkle that set him apart from all of the others.

In the weeks that followed that particular Christmas, Mom would relate news of who got to go home and more comical stories about that little boy who had captured our hearts. It felt good to be a part of this new phase in my mother’s life, sharing it on such a personal level, until one day, when she said she had something to tell me as, her eyes welled with tears, and she drew me close to her. “Sweetie, today our little guy, Eddie, died.” We both cried until she started retelling the bathroom story, mingling laughter with our tears. After losing my father the year before and now this news, I could have turned to anger at how unfair life seemed; however, Mom turned my thoughts to envisioning Eddie being able to play and run and have fun in heaven. Then she thanked me for coming with her on Christmas instead of going to my grandmother’s with my cousins because she said I helped Eddie have a merrier time on his last Christmas. She thanked me — me, just a little girl with really nothing much to give. I know it’s a bit of a cliche that I received far more that Christmas than what I gave, but it is true and has blessed me throughout my life.

Even at my young age, I felt that rare Christmas Day embodied the true meaning of the holiday. It reminded me to try and emulate the spirit of helping others as the baby born on that first Christmas had demonstrated during his time on earth. Through the years, I experienced rough times, good times, tragedies, and triumphs, as most of us do, trying to keep the true meaning of Christmas in my heart, some years better than others. Funny, though, I had not thought of that 1963 Christmas for decades. The particulars and details of the day were fuzzy at best; however, the message to me has remained intact. Who knew that on what might have been considered one of my saddest holidays, instead evolved into one of the most memorable and meaningful.

The applause for the 85-year-old craftsman who won first prize for his intricately honed farm tractor jolted me back to the present. I turned to my grandchildren, gave each a hug, and thanked them for giving of themselves through the toys they made to help another child have a merrier Christmas that year. Who knows, maybe my grandchildren will look back at this as one of their most memorable Christmas moments.

Cathy, a writer, artist, and retired teacher, resides in Darke County with her husband, Roger. Together, they continue to create toys for the Ansonia Toy Contest with their grandchildren, all three of whom placed third, fourth, and fifth in the youth division this year.

Thanks, Cathy, for sharing your story. It made my day and brought some tears to my eyes. I have been covering the contest for years and appreciate the Ansonia Lumber Company and Scott Phillips for doing what they do for children in need, especially at Christmas time.

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Jamie and I extend our condolences to the families and friends of Bob Harless, Patricia Mayo Epperley, Manual Macias, Berendina A. “Ineke” Henderson, Joan Klein, Jerry Honeycutt, Donna Joan Brubaker, Forrest Pitman and Joy Marchal.

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Please pray for these people: Kara Didier, Carl Francis, Janet and Troy Kammer, Bob Peters, Phyllis Brumbaugh, Sonny Custer, Betty Burnfield, Dan Lockhart, Roberta Hall, Pam Norman-Penticuff, Kelly Kelch, Mike Mayse, Greg Moody, Kelly Jo Eikenberry (kidney transplant) and son Allen (donor), Larry Linder, Steve Waymire, Jamie Knick, Jenny Pitman, Nikole Baldridge, Chester Bryant, Manual Macias, Lester Beisner, Delores Beisner, Kermit Foureman, Chuck “C.W.” Cruze, Mark Lovejoy.

Also, Judy York, Donald Booker, Dennis Leeper, Connie Stachler, Randy Heck, Ronnie Norton, Jeremy “Jerm” Burke, Gary Eichler, David Pretzman, Clinton Randall, Ralph Byrd, Doug Winger,  Sonja and Dan Coppess, Bruce Kaiser, Amanda Mote, Gary Francis, Paul Gigandet, Doug Whittington, Tracy Pratt, D’Arleen Waymire, Zach Urbancic, John Rimmer, Joan Keen, Carol Hemmerich, Larry P. Fitzwater, Jim Thomas, Neal Gray, Judie Hathaway, Randy Garrison, Jannie Barrow, Kathy Gragorace, Becky Everhart, Donna Bixler, Linda Subler, Cathy Melling, Scott Clark, and all of those who are suffering from other life-altering illnesses.

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Happy birthday:  

Dec. 15 to Todd Klipstine, Kent Kimmel, and Vicky Ahlering-Flory.   Dec. 16 to Jenny Hamilton, Mike Maloney, Justin Noll,
Dec. 17 to Sharon Riffell Maloy, Anne Brmbaugh, Debra Sawle, Ashley Dakin, Kaleb Earick, Chelsie Moody, and Lyn Downey.  
Dec. 18 to Danny Garber, Cindi Aukerman, Dusty Hathaway, Ginger Sowry, Phyllis Riegle, and Steve Bricker.
Dec. 19 to June Baker, Ben Bucholtz, Aliana Leis Clymer, Robyn Studabaker, Donna Peters, and Anna Myers.
Dec. 20 to Kathy Middleton Dapore, Rick Alexander, twins Emma and Ava Erwin, and Heidi Linebaugh.
Dec. 21 to DeWayne Yohey, Dr. Carlos Menendez and Lois Hoggatt.
 
Happy anniversary to Tony and Luann Lindamood on Dec. 17.  

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Think about it: “Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” — Calvin Coolidge