Christmas Memories

We all have Christmas memories as we look back down the years,
Some festooned with laughter, others wrapped in bitter tears.
As once again I wander in my thoughts down Memory Lane,
I see those times and places I shall never see again,
And look with great emotion at each dear departed face,
Thankful for the memories to cheer this present place.

Remembering my childhood and the old familiar home
From which I never dreamed someday to Canada I'd roam.
I can see the decorations on the imitation tree,
Coloured balls and real live candles, winking back at me.
Garlands of tarnished tinsel, were strung across the room
In a brave attempt to chase away the Great Depression gloom.

One very big production, started many weeks ahead,
Was the English Christmas Pudding, made with suet, flour and bread,
To which was added raisins, currants, cherries, candied peel,
Sugar, treacle and rich spices, all good things that made me feel
Christmas is exciting; then we all must have a stir
And everyone would make a wish and even the cat would purr!
Then the sticky, gooey mixture into pudding bowls was poured,
And steamed for many hours while the aroma was adored.
Then the exciting moment when they were taken from the pan,
The pudding cloths were all removed - I can see them yet, I can!
So dark and moist and wonderful rising up from every bowl,
My chest burned with excitement, anticipation in my soul! -
I still make Christmas Puddings for my own dear family
But never quite so thrilling as those early ones to me.

I remember my dear mother always burdened down with care
For the many preparations of English Christmas fare,
But never would she let me help in my willing, childish way,
"I can do it quicker by myself", impatiently she'd say.
So I never really learned from her how to cook or bake,
But always I would watch her make a lovely Christmas cake.
She made delicious biscuits and many cupcakes too
All the things I wanted so much to help her do.
If I stood there long enough I might get to lick a spoon,
Or scrape the bowl when she was done, which never came too soon.

Later, even when I too have been as busy as a bee;
I loved to have my children and now grandkids bake with me.

One very early memory, when my father was alive,
I vividly recall, at perhaps the age of five.
How long my patient Daddy spent assembling a new toy,
Demonstrating how to play with it to bring his girl some joy.
I can remember wondering as he tested it with glee,
Whether he had purchased it to amuse himself, or me!

First thing on Christmas morning was the stocking on my bed,
I didn't question how it came, just thanked the Lord instead.
As I delved in for fruit and nuts and other little treats,
There'd always be some chocolate and delicious English sweets;
My father worked for Cadburys and often he would bring
Misshaped, discarded caramel, or some other scrumptious thing.

I never had grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins too,
Like all our other English friends and families we knew,
They were far away in Canada many miles across the sea,
We were just my Mum and Dad, my brother, Les and me.
But we had great neighbours, and other friends who cared,
And loved to gather at our house, with whom we gladly shared.

Familiar Christmas Carols, with people gathered round
The piano in our sitting room, made a joyful sound,
While the old pump organ would add its glorious tone
As mum or I in the dining room, played along alone.
The Chapel Christmas Services were always very good
None could say the Season's meaning was not understood.
Special music was important, the choir would always sing,
And even little children did their own performance thing.
Christmas Eve the carol singers went from door to door
Singing old familiar tunes, and were often asked for more.
Some kind friends invited us to come in from the night,
And served us with hot cocoa which filled us with delight.

The Christmas after my Dad died, in nineteen thirty eight,
My mother said "We can't stay home, the loneliness I hate,"
And so we spent the holiday at a Guest House in the wild.
At fifteen I no longer was a carefree, happy child.
I was already working, to keep us warm and fed,
And we were grateful always for our daily bread.
I tried to help my Mum, be strong and take the place of Dad.
And was thankful for the memories of other Christmases I'd had.

Even through the War-time, at Christmas we rejoiced
Our fears for the future at those times never voiced.
Then Christmas 1945 was a time of great thanksgiving -
Remembering the dead but glad we were still living.
The Holy Baby Jesus came so conflict now could cease,
And when He dwells within us He brings Eternal Peace.
I was always grateful for God's precious Gift so free,
Especially after Jesus Christ was born again in me!

The year we came to Canada our happiness was complete;
At last we had a family, so many here to meet!
That Christmas, Nineteen Forty Eight, was the greatest day,
Such food, with friends and loved ones; and we were here to stay
In this land of opportunity, of freedom and of choice,
Its beauty, warmth and friendliness made our hearts rejoice.

Since then, as wife and mother, many Christmases have come
Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren came to bless our home.
Now, though the life of widowhood is not exactly bright,
I still rejoice that Jesus Christ was born that Holy Night.
And now, with all my family special times we celebrate
Producing precious memories for them to recreate!

Honoria Groves