Thank you all for reading my blog.
Please enjoy my Christmas Story for 2015.
The budget was $20. What would we get this year? Every year it was a surprise. By the time I was ten I looked forward to this special day. It was 1975.
Mom would have supper ready by 5pm. We always ate early and in mid December the sun would set by the time our meal was done. I remember a delicious chicken dinner made by my mom who was raised on the farm. She cooked for her now family of 6 just like the family of 13 that she cooked for as she was growing up. Potatoes, corn, and 2 jars from the cold storage, dill pickles and crabapple jelly, accompanied the chicken that came from my Uncle’s farm. Our food was wholesome and organic. The type of food people pay money for at gourmet shops now was the staple of my childhood.
Mom and I would hand wash the dishes while my 3 brothers were in the back entrance getting ready for their evening at “Alexander”, the outdoor rink nearby. They would dress warm, tie their skates together by the laces and throw them over a shoulder. Hockey stick in hand, they were off to play shinny. It was about a 15-minute walk to the rink. The snow sparkled and the nights were cold, but they didn’t seem to notice either of these things. There was a heated shack at the rink to warm up in. If it was very cold they could put their skates on in there too. They would shinny under the lights until 8:30pm when the curfew siren rang. Everyone knew this was the time to go home. It was a simple method, understood by all the kids of the small city of North Battleford.
Dishes done and boys out of the house, it was time for the annual event that I looked forward to. My dad and me were going to buy the Christmas tree. The car would be warm by the time we left. He must have warmed it up while mom and I did the dishes.
We would take a light tour of the city, which was amazing in 1975. Not just because I was small, but it was a time when neighbourhoods got together to make the Christmas season special for everyone. On the east side of the city there were a few streets that had themes. The one I remember well was “Candy Cane Lane”. At the end of each driveway every home on the street had a big candy cane made of wood and wrapped with lights. It was quite a lovely sight from the end of the street thru the eyes of a 10-year-old girl. The candy canes were lined up in precision down both sides of the street and they glowed with the big bright outdoor Christmas bulbs of the 1970s. Dad and I would drive up and down the lane, maybe 2 or 3 times, quietly enjoying the moment while the snowy streets crunched under the car tires. It was so exciting and beautiful! Next, we drove past Ann Shiplett’s house. She was an incredible artist who carved a complete life size nativity scene out of ice. The ice would start out in huge blocks and the nativity would emerge by the night my dad and I were ready to go shopping for our Christmas tree.
The tree lot was not far from the grocery store on 104th Street where you could buy Ukrainian sausage. Focused on our evergreen, we didn’t stop for sausage that night. The beautiful Ukrainian church was just across the street from the Christmas trees. The trees were frozen solid, packed up tight, tied with twine and surrounded by the blessings of this lovely street. We knew the 8-foot height of the tree we were buying, but the shape would be determined after the thaw. The man attending the lot would ask how much we wanted to spend. This was not personal. It was a question people were always asked before the days of credit cards. The budget was $20.
For $20 we could get a beauty. It would have been frozen freshly cut. The smell of the tree lot was aromatic and memorable. We would try to make sure the tree was full on all sides. We would flip a few of them around, trying to compare the fullness in those tightly tied up trees.
We would pay our $20 cash and take the tree home. Packing the tree was dad’s job. I don’t remember that part. When we got it home he would take it to the backyard and use a handsaw to trim the bottom on a bit of an angle so the water could be absorbed properly. We had a big pail with gravel that held the tree up and was heavy enough that the cat would not tip it over. The real surprise emerged the next morning when the tree would have spread and settled into its shape for Christmas. By the time I went to bed the odd branch would be settling downward, beginning to take it’s form. In the morning the tree was open, but would still be frosty.
It would be this evening that we would put the lights on and decorate. Our whole family would enjoy this special night of blinkers, bright lights, glass ornaments, and tinsel. Lots and lots of silver tinsel.