One More Prairie Christmas
Last updated 12/2/2014 at 8:31pm
Christmas was the most memorable time during my childhood years on the prairies. It was uncomplicated but valuable, humble but rich. Each one special to our family.
Every member made the effort to get 'home for the holidays' and travelled under extremely difficult conditions most of the time. No one had cell phones or road assistance. Somehow they always got through, by the grace of our mothers' hours of prayers, I believe, and another Prairie Christmas would begin.
For years after my own family arrived we managed to keep most of those traditions, however, today it is more difficult, but my three sisters and I still have those memories in our hearts.
Our Christmas preparations always began after Remembrance Day (Veterans Day in the U.S.), November 11. That was our Dad's only request each year. We gave that day of respect to those who fought bravely for our country. Dad went through the day quietly. We had our minute of silence before our meal for his brother, our uncle Herbert, who died as a POW in Hong Kong. He was gone but Dad made sure we never forgot him.
The search for our perfect tree began after that day. Dad and I made many trips through the bush together. This alone heightened my anticipation. When we found it, Dad tied a piece of red flannel around it to assure me he wouldn't forget which one I had picked. How priceless that was when I rethink these things. Our Dad knew every tree on our land, but he did that for me so "I wouldn't lose sleep over it," as he put it.
Next he hauled out the boxes of decorations Mom had carefully wrapped. I spent days just looking at them. Mom loved her Christmas cards and saved them from year to year. We spent time in the evening admiring them. Mom read them over and became sentimental with some. She said it was heartwarming to see their words in writing again. Usually a few tears rolled down her cheek when she came to an old card from a dear friend or family member who had passed away. She would brush it away, smile and say, "Well Clara, dear, you are still a part of our Christmas as always." Then she handed it to me to hang on the card line that was strung from one wall to the other. Sometimes, closer to Christmas Eve, Dad usually had to string a second row.
Decorating the house was my task, one that I did with gusto! Everyone who knows me will say that I am still the same today. This is one that I can happily blame on my parents.
Mom was busy with food and baking from morning till night. Dad and I gratefully accepted all leftovers for dessert or evening tea.
It always snowed the day Dad hitched up the horses to go and get the tree. He loved to tease me by saying: "Well, if it snows any harder, we might not be able to find that tree!"
I, of course assured him that I knew exactly where it was!
Lucky for me, and that piece of red flannel.
Mom sent a hot thermos of cocoa and cookies for us. Once the tree was on the hay rack, we rested and admired our handy work. Dad complimented me for picking out the best of the bunch. We devoured our steaming chocolate and treats and headed home. I still remember snowflakes landing in my cup and watching them disappear before I could get them. The tree went into the barn overnight to thaw. Dad said the animals needed some Christmas too. As anxious as I was to get the tree into the house, I liked that.
Finally, the tree, the house, and yes, even a few colors in the barn, all looked fabulous. Waves of cinnamon and brown sugar still drifted through every room. Homemade cider steamed on the stove for the trail of neighbors who never went by without a quick stop to drop a gift or a card.
Family arrived with arms filled with bulky mysterious packages. My excitement level was off the wall! The downstairs bedroom was the hub of secrecy as I listened to paper rustling and hushed voices.
Christmas Eve arrived. The bubble lights bubbled, the tree was surrounded with an avalanche of presents. I had my own secrets under the tree and could hardly wait for Mom and my sisters to see what I had made them (with Dad's help in his workshop). Dad got another scarf or mitts I had somehow fashioned with Mom's wool. My dog, Shep got his present Christmas morning.
Neighbors visited, we sang carols. Everyone talked at the same time while mom kept the table loaded with Christmas baking and cheer. No one left empty handed. There was always a jar of cranberry jelly, a fruit cake or a neatly wrapped box of Annie's Famous Maple Fudge.
I knew I wouldn't sleep a wink because my room was upstairs and surely I would hear the reindeer landing over my head. Besides, Santa's snack was on my night table right beside my head!
As usual, Santa landed like 'the down of a thistle' and I never heard a thing. When I woke up, my stocking was full and the plate was empty! I listened. The house was quiet, even the little ones were still asleep!
Once I was up, everyone was up. First thing Mom did was put on Christmas music. After that, age was no barrier. Dad sat in his chair and contentedly watched until we came to our senses again.
What a day! Dinner with so many people in our house, I couldn't count them. Paper and laughter and music everywhere! Shep was allowed inside for Christmas morning but to him it was like a thunder storm. I can still remember him under the couch, his big dark eyes looking out at us. Happy to be inside but kept himself safe from grabby, sticky little hands.
When we were seated around the table, Dad said grace and then Mom fixed Shep a plate and he enjoyed it by the stove. "Merry Christmas, Shep".
The joys of Christmas past, when our family was all together, have lived in my heart. I wish we could all go back for one more 'Prairie Christmas'.
Hopefully, prayerfully, these memories will continue on through my writing.
Just one more Prairie Christmas
Oh, what I wouldn't give!
To have us all together
The way we used to live.
Remembering the family ties
The love from Mom and Dad
Just 'One More Prairie Christmas'
To share all that we had.
Of course I know it can't be done
Through time and all who passed
But still, it's nice to think about
Traditions we made last.
I'm glad I have those memories
Of all those years ago
My prayers and thoughts from yester years
And the loved ones...still missed so.
Wishing everyone a Prairie Christmas,
If only in your hearts.