Saturday, January 28, 2017

Back in the day *Christmas*

A few weeks ago, I dragged my mother to a writing workshop.
I'm really big on writing down memories.
I love hearing old stories of when she was a child and the
life they led was fascinating.
She was one of 10 children!
Her parents had 5 boys and then 5 girls. 
She's the eldest of the girls.
I keep telling her I'm going to write a book about her and her siblings one day.

This is probably why I write a blog.
It's not very private, but after I'm gone hopefully my memories of somethings will 
continue on.

But as usual I digress.
The workshop was for people over 50.
I'll be there soon enough, so they let me attend.
We were to write a story about ourselves.
From long ago, yesterday,whatever.
So my mom and I chose back in the day stories.

It gave me an idea.
I asked her to send me pictures of my childhood and I would blog about the
 memory that would pop up in my mind.

So here goes. Not one of my usual posts.
Something different.

I was born in 1967.
So the first two pictures are of my second Christmas.
The third, I'm not sure and neither is my mom.
I look to be around 4 or 5.

My dad, me and my mom at my grandparents house.
My aunt Diane, me and my aunt Elizabeth at my grandparents house.

The thing I remember the most about my Christmases as a child 
was my grandparents house.

Back in the day, before global warming, we used to have snow...a lot of snow.

A kids dream.

Christmas eve would start with having supper and my mother would always make this nasty concoction called "Pate a la viande".
It was tea biscuits mixed with stew meat. It was dry and nasty. 
But if I didn't eat it all, we wouldn't open our gifts.
So even though it would make me gag, literally, I would eat it.

I'm not sure why, but around here, it's customary for a lot of families to open 
their gifts Christmas eve.

After we'd open our gifts, we would bundle up and head to 
what people in these parts affectionately call "Pinque Alley".
This is a road that most of my relatives live in and we have the nickname of
"Les Pinques" the Bluejays.  Why, well that's another post.

We'd usually start at my Uncle Alphonse and Aunt Angela. They had two girls that were just a bit younger than I was. By now they had opened their gifts and we could see what they had gotten.

Next was Uncle Joe (his real name was Alfred, don't ask me why they called him Joe) and his wife Cecile. They had two children also. A girl and a boy.
And on and on we kept visiting the rest of the uncles and aunts.
By the time we were done it was late in the evening and everyone
congregated at my grandparents.

The house was small. And when you'd walk in the door the heat of the wood stove and the smell of rappie pie would hit you in the face. 

The small kitchen had a large wood stove that would heat that end of the house.
The even tinier living room held a large Wood Chief stove that would keep
 that end of the house warm and toasty.

When I say everyone would congregate there, I mean around 20 adults and 20+ children in a teeny tiny house.  The adults would chew the fat and us kids would go in the stairs to talk about what we had gotten for Christmas and school woes. The stairs was the premiere spot to be since it was unheated on the second story, so the heat wasn't so bad in the staircase.
But we weren't allowed to go upstairs. It was a bit of a mystery.
Some years we would make up stories about what was really up there.

The food was always there. You just ate as you got there. There was no set time to eat.
As long as you were done for 10pm.
The menu was simple, chicken rappie pie or stew meat rappie pie.
Dessert was jelly rolls (homemade of course!) and Barley candy.
The barley candy was a mystery to us little kids.

There was a place in Yarmouth that would make barley candy. But that was, at the time, over an hour away. And I don't remember my grandparents owning a car.  So how did it get there? 

After everyone had full bellies, my grandparents would sit down in the place of honour and open their gifts from everyone.  Much ouuing and ahhing went on. 
All gifts were admired, didn't matter how small or large they were.

Then ten o'clock was the bewitching hour. 
Everyone needed to leave to go to the midnight mass.
I'm not sure which was worse, eating pate a la viande or going to the midnight mass.
Remember, we were just little kids and waiting in a huge, hot stuffy church for two hours before the mass began was torture.  You couldn't talk, fidget or look around to see where your friends were.

By the time the mass began, most kids were asleep. 
But every midnight mass, one kid was chosen to bring up the baby Jesus.
Oh my, what a honour that was, especially since they got a small gift afterwards.
I never got chosen, because this wasn't our home parish.

After the hour and a half long mass, we were on our way home.

My mom, my dad, my uncle James and myself

It had been a long day. It didn't take long to fall asleep.
The strange thing is that, even though Santa was coming the next day.
I hardly ever remember Christmas Days. Only Christmas eves.

Which means one thing.
Faith, family and fun were more important than gifts.

Have a Blessed Day.