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Real Trees and Great Memories

by Bonnie Nelson

Issue #20: December-January 2001-02

Way back in the forties and the fifties, family Christmases were quite the production. Preparations went on for weeks. My grandparents were from huge families and the gatherings were very entertaining. All ages were welcome, and there was enough food to cover Grandma’s dining table three times over. These were the good old Christmases when family gatherings and church festivities were more important than gift giving and the commercial side of the holidays.

I remember the light snows, they weren’t the bombardments we get now. Carol and I tramped out tag patterns in Grand’s side yard. Sometimes there was enough to actually build a fair-sized snowman. If we were really lucky, Dad would haul out the hose and flood the big area under Grand’s clotheslines. Those clotheslines taught me how to skate. Easier on the knees, and I learned my edges while Gram watched from her kitchen window.

Real Christmas trees were the thing — back then the pine scent was authentic. Decorations were invented. Pride in the homemade was taken in our family. Cranberries, marshmallows, and popcorn were the order of the day on the lower branches of our trees. We always had a cat and a sheltie in our home, both capable of sniffing out chocolates and destroying anything within reach. So, the bare lower branches were for their delight and entertainment. Further up were the precious ornaments that reappeared every year along with the story of their origin and how they came to our family tree.

Gifts would inevitably arrive with every family visit. Since I was a Christmas baby, birthday gifts would always double as Christmas gifts. Christine, my daughter and I always console each other over this injustice, as she is a Christmas baby too. As a child, I longed to celebrate my birthday in the summer, with a picnic, and swimming. Now, at my age, I just prefer to forget the whole thing.

My girlfriends and I used to always walk from Walkerville, down to Windsor, up Ouellette to Tecumseh and to Dad’s drug store for a free ride home after closing time. Those Christmas walks were wonderful memories. The first snow was a sign for us to bundle up and window shop. We would laugh and sing carols, and press our noses against store windows wishing we had a million dollars. Oh, what we couldn’t do with that million dollars…

When we lived in Walkerville, the Christmas season always wound up with a house party on New Year’s Eve. This was the tradition as I grew up. An afternoon nap was always forced upon me, to make sure I survived the night, and a rose velvet dress was the order of the day. That dress and I seemed to grow up together. It was altered a few times to the point where I really didn’t want to wear it ever again. My mom had wonderful lasting friends, and this memorable New Year’s Eve party was at the home of one of those friends. We kids had a great time in the rec room in the basement while the adults entertained upstairs. The grand finale was when Uncle Ron fired off his shotguns at midnight. Then a sumptuous buffet fit for a king was enjoyed by young and old.

Christie, Jeff, my son and I are usually together at Christmas. It has become very important to me to try to keep my family together, as soon enough, the kids will be starting their own families and memories, so I tend to overdo it as a doting mom will.

Many thanks to those who have taken the time to remember when — through e-mail. It’s been a fun year!




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