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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Memories of Christmas past

When I was a little girl, Mom and Dad would pile my sister Cathy and me, along with cardboard boxes stuffed with wrapped gifts, into the back of our station wagon early in the day on Christmas Eve. Destination: East Ottawa, Grandma’s house. It was only an hour or so to drive but it seemed like quite a journey to a kid. That was before the 416, so we took old 16 (County Road 44) straight through North Gower.
Once in Ottawa, Cathy and I would settle in to the guest room with twin beds. I could never imagine my father as a little kid in that room. The twin beds had white chenille bedspreads with raised patterns and swirls – I am pretty sure they still do. A thick Persian area rug padded the floor over the thin green carpet between the beds. We slept deeply in that room.
On Christmas Eve, we would go to my uncle’s house two blocks away from Grandma’s. There our five cousins would have some sort of entertainment planned for the evening. When we were younger, the eldest, Sherry, had us all singing Christmas carols for the adults, in our pajamas. In later years, we snuggled down in the rec room and watched movies together on the brand-new VCR.
I was always anxious to get to bed, because in my reasoning, the sooner you get to sleep, the faster Christmas morning comes. Before bed we were allowed to open one gift but for some reason Mom was always allowed to choose which one we would open. It was always pajamas.
Grandma had sugar cookies and milk for Santa. We put those on a plate in the kitchen before turning in. I remember wondering how he would get in when Grandma didn’t have a fireplace. I studied the old coal burner in the basement and examined the laundry chute between the floors. As my Dad the science teacher said, there are some things we just aren’t meant to understand. I was ok with that.
Christmas morning Cathy and I woke with the very first rays of sunlight, and sometimes a bit before. I will never forget the feeling of the over-stuffed felt stocking that had been left at the end of my bed – likely to entertain us for another hour or two so the parents could sleep a bit longer. The stretched felt squeaked as I quietly pulled out a coloring book (in later years a fashion magazine), a doll, candy, tangerines, socks (in later years, pantyhose), hair accessories, jewellery, etc. One of us would wake the other and we would celebrate our finds in whispered squeals.
Once that excitement wore off, we would pull on slippers and pad down to the living room. There was a light left on so we could survey the bounty. The gifts from Dad even beat the ones we asked of Santa, because they were always so original. And he always painstakingly wrapped them himself. One year he gave us walkie talkies. Which reminds me of our last Christmas together, in 2007, when he gave us tickets to see Mamma Mia at the NAC. I miss my Dad. So many of my memories revolve around him.
On Christmas Day we got our best outfits on and went back over to our cousins’ house for a big turkey lunch. That was our tradition, every year.
Now that we have divided families and our kids are paired up with partners there are many commitments and social obligations so we have to be creative. Christmas morning we will gather at my sister’s house for brunch and gift exchange. Then home for a nap and Christmas afternoon the Farmer and I will head to his sister’s house in Ottawa for dinner.
But I harbour a secret wish. Sometimes I daydream about a Christmas a few years from now, when our five daughters will come and stay with us in this big farmhouse on Christmas eve, with their young families. Christmas morning we will be awakened by the squeal of tiny children in fuzzy pajamas with feet. Santa may have trouble getting down the chimney of our woodstove, so we might leave the porch door open for him. I can’t wait.
Enjoy your holidays making memories with family and friends.
Merry Christmas from The Farmer and me.

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