The Ghosts of Christmas Past and the Pandemic of Christmas Present

 In Letters, Opinion

Editor:

Christmas Eve, heading to a Christmas Day like no other we have known.  Last year our family Christmas Dinner had 38 people who drove many miles to get there: this year a tenth of that number all living under the same roof. 

It’s made me think of other Christmases-the year both my sisters and I received long red flannel nightgowns and we were all so proud to be dressed alike. I wore out mine, and when my sister outgrew hers, I wore that one until it was threadbare as well. My Grama made one for each of her six granddaughters. A practical, much needed gift.

Being part of the secret for weeks while my Mom sewed “togas” for all the big gruff men in our family and the howls of laughter while they posed in front of the Christmas tree modelling their gifts. One uncle quipped to his wife “I think it’s a bit short don’t you agree?”

Driving 40 hours across 4 provinces in December with my dog as co-pilot in a 15-year-old Toyota Corolla without booster cables (that was a gift waiting for me) just to be home for Christmas. The trip back to Alberta seemed to take 10 times longer.

Hosting “Orphan Christmases” for the 3 or 4 of our friends who, like us, unfortunately couldn’t make it home for the holidays that year. This tradition has carried down to our children and their “orphan” friends routinely appear and are welcomed for Christmas dinner.

The year we could not throw out the empty boxes until a week later because they were the BEST gifts according to our 15-month-old. A quieter, more blessed Christmas after arriving home on Christmas Eve with a second daughter.

Speed forward a few years when the entire Alberta clan arrived home for a huge, crazy Avening Christmas. That was the year my niece got engaged over the phone; it was also the year we discovered our Mom had never had a Christmas Stocking of her own before. 

Those years of being an Emergency Services shift-worker and working Christmas Day. That’s when hubby would take the kids skating on Bowness Park until I arrived home from work.  Or fighting to stay awake after nightshift to watch the kids open gifts and waking up hours later wondering if we had had Christmas, or did I dream we had Christmas…?

There was the year a little voice in the dark asked “has Santa come yet?” and my husband sleepily replied “I don’t know, did you check?” only to discover it was 3 a.m. in the morning! One of his gifts that morning was a “razor sharp” pruning tool. He was in and out of Emergency with sutures in his hand by the time I headed to work for 9 am. 

One Christmas tradition created by our kids was sleeping Christmas Eve Night in the same bedroom. The younger one thought it was exciting to camp out on the floor in a sleeping bag but make no mistake, the older child slept quite soundly usually and did NOT want to be left behind in the Christmas morning gift discoveries!

When the kids were growing up we lived in a house with two fireplaces, one on the main level and one in the basement. Our oldest daughter Beth was quite an early reader and one year after leaving milk and cookies for Santa they headed off to bed. The parental prankster elves got to work and relocated every single gift to the basement fireplace room, simply leaving a note that said “Oooops, I got the wrong chimney. Love, Santa”.  Next thing we wake up hearing little voices whispering and much speculation. Beth comes into our bedroom and says Mom there was a note left on the tree but all the presents are gone. The milk is drank and cookies are eaten, so I know Santa was here.  I asked her to read the note out loud to me and she reads “OPS, I got the wrong chimney” just as her younger sister has deducted the problem and we hear pounding feet heading to the basement. Years later she chuckles remembering that she couldn’t figure out what the word “ops” meant.

Christmas in our family is all about good, wholesome food, including those famous, favourite dishes that are so finicky to make they only come out once a year. For most people this brings to mind chocolate pixie cookies, homemade butter tarts, pies, Christmas pudding with brown sugar sauce, or traditional Christmas cake. Our family? We have two camps of vegetable lovers that are emphatically either a turnip puff or a sweet potato casserole hard core fan. Prospective boyfriends in particular are put to the question which dish they prefer, and their generic answer is quickly shouted down with “there is NO Switzerland in this family! Pick one!”

There are Christmases that half the day was spent trying to get thorough on long distance to talk to your folks, or grandparents. Some parts of Christmas Day are spent feeling a bit sad as you realize you can no longer call some of your loved ones. This year will be our father, Warren Gale who is missing from Christmas morning greetings.

December 25, 2020 will be a day to re-remember the “Reason for the Season” and perhaps allow a reset away from the commercialism of the holiday season. Yes, Covid Christmas will be unlike our traditional large gathering but it WILL be one to be tucked away for our treasured trove of Christmas memories gone-by. 

This year, the greetings of old Christmas cards are more appropriate that ever. To all, I wish good health, and happiness. Merry Christmas!

Laurie Rowe

Black Diamond, AB

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