Thursday, December 25, 2003

Memories of Holidays Past

As I sit here looking out the window at the pines, spruces and evergreens I think of all the years we spent the holidays up in the country in the Laurentian Mountains around Lac Paquin with family and friends. The whole family would go up the moment school was out, sometimes aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would join us and we'd head up North, station wagon filled to brimming with enough food to feed an army and needlework to keep us busy when we weren't outside skiing, on a toboggan or, my absolute favourite, the flying saucer!

We didn't rely on TV, though we had one, an old black and white, and video games and computers weren't around then. We'd be outside most of the day to come in to a roaring fire and hot drink. My treasured pump organ was next to the fire and I'd have fun trying to churn out a song or two. There was always a jigsaw puzzle going on the dining room table....thousands of tiny pieces waiting to be arranged in their unique spots. We had a system. The puzzle was always there for anyone to walk by and look for that one missing edge or piece of a boat or tree and as dinner time approached my mother and I would carefully lay the tablecloth over the puzzle. As soon as the dishes were cleared, washed and put away, we'd gently lift the cloth, always amazed that the pieces were in the exact position as before. We'd do needlework, talk, play board games, do paint by number (d'you remember those kits?) and never heard the words "I'm bored". And books...there were a ton of books everywhere. And when one of us finished the next one would pick it up. The fire was always going and there was always someone in the kitchen making coffee or baking or getting a snack. It was unorchestrated peaceful chaos when all of us were there.

Long walks in the woods to the country store for milk to that extra few feet around the bend so we could see if the small waterfall in the creek had frozen over yet...wandering down to the lake to skate when it was cold enough and some of the snow had been cleared. We never had trouble sleeping, though my father, a firm believer of fresh air, would open the windows in our bedrooms at night. We slept like logs in the country air, but try getting us out to step onto the cold floor in the morning.

We all screamed at him. He kept doing it.

Mom would send Dad to town to the bakery to pick up TWO BREADS. He got the bread. Sometimes. Sometimes he forgot because he was so busy buying everything else in the place from mini hors d'oeuvres to cold cuts, coffee cakes and everything else he couldn't pass up because it looked so good, a couple of times he had to go back for the bread! The owners of the bakery must have made their monthly sales quota each time he walked into their store. And the freezer downstairs kept filling and filling....

The best times was when it was just us and we could gather around the black and white TV watching the Wild Wild West or the original Mission Impossible or one of my all time favourite movies, Harvey with James Stewart. Those were incredible times....which flew by much too quickly.

But some of the traditions live on. The kitchen last night was hopping as my son, his friend and I cooked up a storm, there will be many a fire lit in the fireplace over the holidays, a quilt in the works is close by so I can pick it up and sew a few more stitches and music is always going. And maybe if I'm lucky, Harvey the six foot three and a half inch rabbit will make an appearance at some point on the TV while I sit by the fire remembering such wonderful times. And as old traditions come to mind, the newer ones, also special take being with our Ottawa family tonight for Xmas dinner, most of us with kids who have come home for a bit so we can share all that's happened over the year.

All the best...
Donna Karlin

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