I know it sounds like a song and I’m not a musician! I like to remember my Christmases in our little community of Pasadena and all the people who helped make it so special. I learned at a young age that you help create your reality and what you want, you sometimes have to make it happen. Growing up in a large family had its bonuses and learning how to survive and be happy was part of that. So here are some memories of my Christmases growing up in that little west coast community.
We grew up believing that each person may not be talented in all areas, but we each brought to the table our uniqueness and we might do one or two things really well. My father thought he could dance when he got a few drinks in him! Everyone knew he could handle a loader or tractor with only a few pointers in the beginning when he was in the learning stages. He was also a good farmer, enjoying his strawberry farm when he was in his 70s. My mother could knit, crochet and cook really well. She worked as a cook at the Hi-Way Diner prior to her death.
While I had lots of patience with children and also I wrote half decent stories and poems, I was informed at an early age that I couldn’t sing. One time I memorized a favorite song, You Ask Me To Give Up The Hand Of The Girl I Love(not sure if that’s the name of it), and taped it for my parents. That was a disaster and now I usually just hum.
My sister Rose was a fashionista and she could dress up like a model when it struck her to do so and she’s also great with seniors and cleaning houses. We knew we had some talents but weren’t quite sure what they were at an early age.
My sister Carolann could charm everyone with her magical fudge and her way with children. She was always encouraged to make some fudge, especially when I was babysitting and I remember her telling me that one day I was going to blow up if I kept eating it! Back then when you were a hundred pounds, you didn’t really think that far ahead! I recall how she charmed some of my boyfriends with her fudge! She still makes it to this day and gives it to friends, family and neighbours. And she is still amazing with children. They absolutely adore her!
Andy and Albert were pretty good carpenters since they learned many of their skills from my father (although he didn’t consider himself that good). Andy was nearly finished his house when he died and Albert was building a house for a police officer and had started his own house prior to his death. So they were brave enough to take on the job of building something and were successful to a great extent, without any formal training. They had other talents, I’m sure. Andy was good at softball and enjoyed it immensely and Albert loved to box. I don’t know how good he was at that sport.
My brother Tom is accustomed to living on the streets of Toronto. He has travelled to many parts of Ontario but enjoys living close to downtown Toronto. I’ve often thought that he must know how to get along there, where I’d have a lot of trouble doing so. He is happy in this environment.
Each person in our family felt that he/she contributed to our happiness and did chores to make our Christmases happy occasions. We all did our part in helping with the cleaning and cooking. We welcomed people to our home.
To get on with my story of Christmas in my hometown I’d have to say that we always had a real tree and we enjoyed decorating it. I have no idea how we got it each year, but since Dad worked in the lumber woods for many years, I’m sure he went out and cut it himself. The tree had a few sets of the old time lights strung on it and we put any glass bulbs we had on it, along with a star for the top of the tree. We each grabbed a handful of tinsel and strung it from each branch. Sometimes we popped popcorn and strung it to decorate the tree. It was a big deal when it was decorated and plugged in so the lights would lighten up our little hearts!
Did we hang up stockings? Well, yes, real stockings not those sparkly ones we make or buy today. Did we hang them? I can’t remember doing that. We probably laid them somewhere near the tree so Santa would find them. In the morning everything was laid out neatly so there was no mistaking who owned what.
Going to church for midnight mass was great when we were old enough to go. Everyone was dressed up with their new coats, boots and scarves. Everyone seemed so happy. We didn’t eat at night, not until dinner the next day. Some people I know now have a feed after the Christmas Eve mass such as baked lamb and the fixings. But we didn’t eat until we had turkey the next day.
Mom would have the turkey in the oven the night before and she heated it up and made gravy the next morning while we peeled the vegetables. We sure looked forward to that turkey as we didn’t eat turkey very often back then. We’d fight over the bum or the pope’s nose as some refer to it!
We’d open our stockings and slowly eat the contents. We didn’t want to spoil our dinner so we were warned not to eat too much candy. We played with the one toy we received and shared with each other. Someone might have a Snakes and Ladders game or Checkers. The boys got guns and a small truck or a car. No one seemed to complain about what Santa brought. It was a fun day no matter what we received.
We were so hungry by the time dinner was served. We all sat around the table when it was ready and Dad said grace. Then we dug in and what a feast we enjoyed! No one got up from the table hungry.
In the afternoon we might go to a friend’s house to see what Santa had brought to them. We’d play together while our parents visited and had a drink or two. Back then most homes had a fruit cake made so there was always a glass of Purity syrup or wine to wash it down with.
There was always music played in our home. Mom loved to buy records for our record player. We had records of Christmas music which was played a lot around this time of year. Of course the Irish music was popular and Dad would often get up and try to step ‘er out. We would just laugh and try a few steps ourselves! Dad would always have a story about what a great man Uncle Bill Whelan(who wasn’t really our uncle) was or someone else. He loved the Maxwells and he’d tell us all about how good Mrs. Maxwell was to him whenever he went to see her. I think he genuinely had a love for seniors. After Mom died he’d praise Sheila who would always take his keys if he had too many drinks.
Other images of cracking nuts,making hot chocolate with cocoa, sugar and Carnation milk mixed together and then added to boiled water, hours spent hoarding the Simpson Sears and Eatons catalogues until we decided on our gift that we absolutely couldn’t live without, sucking on candy canes and receiving Avon from my aunts- all stand out in my mind.
Boy, it seems a long time back to those kind of Christmases! Who can forget those hours of anticipation leading up to that early Christmas morning rise to see if Santa had arrived? I really enjoy my memories of my childhood Christmases growing up in Pasadena.
I’d like to hear about your images of your Christmas in your home towns. Don’t be afraid to comment. If you don’t want them to appear on the blog, just say so.