All of us have memories of special 'Festive' occasions in our lives. However, the dominant one is of Christmas - no matter if it is a depressing recollection or a very joyous one - we remember.
My oldest memory of Christmas is of the one when I was five years old and Alda was three. I do not remember the tree - nor the feast - but the surprising gifts that 'Santa' left under the tree. Alda received a doll buggy while I was given a little red car in which I could sit and propel by working pedals. However - I also remember how easy it was for me to bark my shins on the metal frame. Ouch! That hurt!
One other memory of that celebration that has remained with me was the supper hour radio broadcasts emanating from a department store in Vancouver - the voice of Santa accompanied by the voices of other children who were expressing their 'wish lists'. I believed - oh how I believed - that I was really hearing the voice of the magical elf.
Moving ahead three or four years to when I was eight or nine years old. We had moved to Dawes Hill in Coquitlam and the family was under financial stress on three fronts - the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) had been on strike so Dad had been without an income - Dad had had a thumb injured at work and was on Workmen's Compensation - and I had undergone the first of the three or four operations on my disfigured face.
There was no money - and then, on Christmas Eve, two checks were in the mailbox. One was a payout from the Workmen's Compensation Board (WCB) and the second was a belated Income Tax Refund. Dad took off for New Westminster to scour the stores for suitable presents. What he found for me was the one gift that I received during my childhood that I appreciated the most of all the gifts which I got during those years of growing up. It was a box with the cardboard cutout of a castle and miniature knights and horses made of metal. I played with that gift over and over again for more than a year by which time the cardboard castle had become rather frayed.
During that space of time Mom and Dad celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary and Dad commissioned a neighbor lady (Albertine Poirier - later to become Alda's mother-in-law - and a woman who was very adept at embroidery and crocheting) to manufacture a beautiful table cloth as his gift to Mom. The basis of the cloth was white sheeting with embroidery and white crochet stitching along the edge and at the corners .That cloth graced our table until all of we children had left home and now it is in the possession of Alda - that was the tablecloth which graced her table when Ric and I visited over Christmas in 2005.
Albertine's third oldest son was Alex and he dropped by for a drink on that Christmas day. He had had a bit to drink before he arrived so he was somewhat clumsy - and knocked over the glass of red wine which Dad had offered him. There - on this pristine white tablecloth - was a large red stain. Not to worry - as the main piece of cloth in the creation was white sheeting, the stain washed right out while the colored embroidery stitches remained unharmed.
I received gifts every year but none were as memorable as that pedal car and the cardboard castle complete with knights. Also, when I began traveling and working for a church, I did not have the opportunity of spending Christmases with the family.
Family Christmas dinner in 1958 or '59. Naming from left to right, my kid brother Dan, Mom (nearly not in the photo at all!) an old family friend (George Hunt), me, Dad, Alda holding her first born son (Mark), Grandma, my niece (Donna) and my kid sister, Babs. The wag sitting next to me as I write this asked "Where's the turkey?" It is in front of Dad waiting to be carved!
And - Yes! - that is the tablecloth which Albertine Poirier created as Dad's gift to Mom on their tenth wedding anniversary.
Here the church that I attend is the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. For the past 22 years the congregation has rented the city's largest concert hall (Roy Thompson Hall) for the Christmas Eve celebration. I was one of the volunteers - as I have every Christmas Eve when I have been in town - in that huge hall on the night before last. There are more than 2800 seats and all but 100 or so were occupied. An organ, wind instruments and a choir of nearly 100 voices - WOW!
A belated Merry Christmas to all of you!!!