Christmas once again comes rolling around.

As you get older, it seems to come a little more rapidly. And, of course, as you pass the biblical allotment of three score years and ten, it brings more and more memories. Many are pleasant, and, too often, there are those that remind you of sadness.

In my lifetime, having been fortunate enough to be around for 80-plus-three of those Christmases, I have seen both ends of the gambit.

The first Christmas that I really remember was when I had just turned three. The home we lived in then was a cottage near the mill dam in Fergus. It was blessed with a cellar kitchen. Mother, as usual, placed the Christmas tree near the head of the coming-down stairs. From there, we could see its beauty from both levels.

The tree was usually decorated with garlands of garden-grown popcorn hand-strung on sugar bag strings. There were twirls of red crepe paper everywhere, and the tree was topped with an angel hand cut from a sheet of reclaimed white oilcloth tabletop covering.

But this particular year, mother had surprised us with a thing of real beauty. She had stretched the budget beyond belief and had purchased a single green crystal ball. My, how it shone! School children came in to see it. In Depression years, she had paid an outrageous price – 30 cents was a bundle of money back then. I still have that crystal ball hanging sedately in my room, having survived eighty years still unbroken.

The next Christmas that I strongly remember was the year I just turned five. We had moved to the farm in the springtime and had taken four grey Plymouth Rock hens with us. They were fun birds. It was my job to play hide and seek, finding and gathering their eggs each morning for breakfast. Meat was in short supply for the table that Christmas, and I recall my father telling two of my older brothers, “Go and catch whichever one you can.”

It was fun watching them chase the old fleet-footed speckled grey hens that were probably as old as I was. But reality, never to be forgotten, sunk in when I was soon to see one hen’s head between two nails on the chopping block beside the sharp-bladed hatchet, one whack and red blood spattered far and wide on the snow.

We had many pleasant Christmases while growing up on the farm.

There were skating parties on the snow-shovelled pond and marshmallows toasted on long willow sticks while we warmed by the pond-side fire. There were sleigh-riding parties on the neighbour’s steep hill and horseback riding on old logging trails through the bush.

 And yes, too, more often than not, on Christmas Day, Dad would hook up our team to the horse-drawn sleigh, and we would go for a hay ride around several country blocks, picking up neighbours on our way, singing Christmas carols at the top of our voices as we went.

Often there was a strange face at our outstretched Christmas table. It seemed to be family tradition. Would it not be nice just to roll back the years and enjoy self-made fun and simple down-to-earth friendship once again?

Though her chair remains empty, as it has for greater than eight years, on behalf of my Little Lady, may she and I wish each and every one of you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a fun and Happy New Year. 

Take care, ‘cause we care.




Barrie Hopkins