** Before I get into this latest edition of Stories from a Small Town, I just wanted to say hi! I’m back. For how long depends on the hockey schedule, the whim of my words and how the stars align. Maybe one of these times my schedule will actually stick and this will be the regular thing I intend on it being. For now, grab a cup of tea (or wine) and settle in. I’ve got another story for you. Let me tell you about Christmas on the farm.**
There is something about going home for the holidays. Things are the same and they are so very different at the same time. For all my dislike of winter, there are few places more comforting to me than the farm at Christmas time. I will always and forever believe that fall is the best season to be out that way, but winter isn’t too far off. The trees are coated in white, there is pristine, untouched snow as far as the eyes can see. And quiet. It’s so blissfully quiet.
As a kid, Christmas started the night before. My siblings and I would join my grandparents, dad, aunt and uncles at the local church for Christmas Eve service. An hour of Christmas carols and a beautifully cozy church surrounded by people we loved, we went home to set out the cookies and milk and it was off to bed.
And no one slept. Ok, maybe my dad did. After the evening chores, of course. But we kids didn’t. At least not well and not for very long. The one memory I have of Christmas before my parents split up was of my sister and I trying to sneak from our shared, Carebear wallpapered bedroom down the hall, past the spare bedroom where my uncle (who was home from university for a visit) slept. Our feet hit the first stair and our uncle’s voice came down the hallway to get back to bed.
Most Christmas mornings followed the same pattern: we would hear dad moving around getting ready to go to the barn. It was the one time of the year that we were up at the same time he was. So down the stairs we would go. Negotiations ensued and every year we were allowed to open our stockings before dad took care of chores.
After the longest eternity ever (in reality, I think it was an hour. It might have been thirty minutes. Dad has a bit of a soft spot for his kids and probably did the bare minimum to ensure the livestock was comfortable), he came back in to the house and tried to convince us that we had to have breakfast before opening presents.
More negotiations ensued. My dad still thinks he’s pretty funny.
The presents were opened with enthusiam. Ooohs and ahhs and happy kids all around. By then it was time for breakfast of some sort. I don’t really remember what we ate. But we had something. And we had time to play with the new toys before having to pack up and head over to my grandparents in the early afternoon. I’m still not 100% sure how we fit 14-16 people in that tiny bungalow, but we did. Year after year. There were card games and stories and food. So much food.
These days, we celebrate Christmas differently. The Sunday before, we pack the boys up along with our gifts for the nieces and my family. We drive out to my mother’s place with the boys in pyjamas and we open the stockings and gifts once everyone has arrived. Then the kids go to play with their new toys and their cousins and my siblings and I settled down with my grandmother to play cards. Usually euchre. And my grandmother usually wins.
My mom insists grandma cheats. If she does, she’s really good at it. This year, even her skill and/or cheating didn’t help her playing against me. I lost all three rounds. The ego is a little wounded.
We have an early dinner and help clean up. Then we pack up the boys and their gifts and head to my aunt and uncle’s place for a visit and some treats. My uncle makes the best fudge at Christmas time. We then make our way with a care package to our final stop. Where it all started.
The farm. My dad is there. So we stop in and have a visit. The boys go to the barn to visit the new calves that have arrived. And we head back to our home to wait for Santa’s arrival. Much like my Christmas traditions as a kid, the boys wake up exceedingly early, we open presents and have breakfast. They play with their toys for a bit and then we head over to my inlaws for more gifts, more family and more food.
Not a bad way to spend a holiday at all. Here’s to a holiday season full of happy memories. The House of Hockey wishes you all the best for a happy, healthy hockey season.
See you at the rink,