The Joy of Christmas Days
by Mel Robertson
Note: My last two Christmas stories - "The Snow of Christmas Eve" and "The Joy of Christmas Morning" - have been attempts to portray the notes made by an imaginary elderly woman living in an imaginary retirement home in Burford. In these, she has attempted to describe a Christmas she spent in Burford as a child and her Christmas today. Please remember that all of this has been made from things told to me by various people, scraps from old letters and diaries, etc. All names but two have been chosen at random. The two real names are "Will and Fanny" which I took from an old penny Christmas card. I don't know who they were but they wrote on a card in 1906, "We will be up on the 6 o 'clock train - Will and Fanny". Do not try to put names or locations on any of the places mentioned. Just remember-that all of this is fantasy without any attempt at reality.
This will be the last of my little Christmas "fairy tales." I would like to thank the considerable number of readers who have told me they liked the first two parts. I hope they will like this one and I wish them a Merry Christmas.
Well, here I am back in my cozy apartment at the end of another perfect Christmas Day. The sun is just about to set but before things get too dark I will write about the day and the other Christmas Day when I was a child. I see that they have put on the lights on the little tree in the garden and once again the little rabbit has come to look things over. There are also a couple chickadees coming and going at my window sill, getting the last crumbs I put out this morning.
What a fine day this has been. I got up at about 6:30. I always get up early Christmas Day. This time I wanted to be sure that all my parcels were properly labelled and that my things were ready for me to get "fussed up" for the trip to the farm.
While I was working there was a knock at my door. It was the lady from down the hall. She had seen the light under my door and had come to see if everything was alright. What a kind person she is. She told me she always gets up early on Christmas morning and we had a good laugh and a pat on the back.
Attendance at breakfast was pretty skimpy as so many slept in but it was nice to go down and eat. Mother always said: "Never start the day on an empty stomach."
Will and Fanny came for me at about 10. It was such a nice cold morning with all the new snow. They have a big warm car and we "nipped along" at a good rate as the roads had been plowed just before Christmas.
This made me recall the Christmas day we spent out on the farm when I was a child. In those days the roads were not plowed and Grandfather hitched up his span of big horses in case the road was heavy. I remember it was a morning like this one with bright sun and new snow. We were all bundled up with lots of scarves and mittens and big buffalo robes for our feet. We sang "Jingle Bells" as we went along.
At the farm Gerty and Art ran out to meet us and, after we got our things off, they took us into the parlour to see their tree and presents they had received. We exchanged presents and then had hot cocoa in the kitchen with the big folks. For Christmas dinner there was a fine big roast goose and a roast of beef. There were no turkeys in those days and no ready-prepared vegetables so getting such a dinner must have been a lot of work.
After our stomachs were "settled" Art and Gerty took us out to the bam where we got sleighs and slid down the ramp by the big doors. A couple of deer came out to watch us. Betsy dog barked at them but they paid no attention.
Later we went back in and Grandfather read some of "The Christmas Carol" to everybody.
We came back to Burford at about 4:00 as Grandmother had to get supper ready for some old friends who were coming in. They were a lot of fun. One old gentleman was hard of hearing and used an ear trumpet that looked like a horn. He pretended it was a horn and blew funny noises for us.
After supper we all went into the parlour where the big centre lamp was lit and the fire in the big stove made pretty patterns on the rug. The big folks each had a little bit of 50 year-old dandelion wine. We were allowed to smell it. We laughed to think how nice an old bunch of dandelions could smell after 50 years. Then mother played the melodeon and we all sang songs and the old folks told scary but funny ghost stories.
We hoped the evening would never end but, at about 8:30, we were told it was bed-time. However, before we went up to bed Brother Jack and I went out on the back porch to bid Christmas good-bye. I remember we could see the lights of farmhouses along the creek and Brother Jack wondered if they were looking at us. We could also hear children somewhere singing the closing chorus from the Christmas concert Merry Merry Christmas went up to bed feeling a little sad that Christmas was over again.
All of these recollections of that Christmas Day long ago brings me back to the wonderful Christmas we had at the farm today. As we drove into the yard there was Gerty at the door. She looked great and I hope I look half as good as she does. Art and Ed have been dead for many years but Gerty has a good place at the farm for when Will took over the place he built a nice apartment for Gerty on the side of the big house and she now has a place of her own where she can be comfortable and independent. Will and Fanny are very kind to her. She took me into her place so I could get out of my things. I noticed that her window looks out on the big bam where we slid down the ramp on that Christmas of so long ago. I am glad that Will has kept the barn. It has aluminum siding now but it is still the same old bam where we slid down the ramp as kids.
Dinner was wonderful with a big turkey and all the trimmings. Fanny is a wonderful cook and, when the girls arrived, they pitched in.
After dinner we went into the parlour and Will put "The Christmas Carol" on his VCR. This has been a Christmas tradition for years and we all knew when to laugh or cry.
All in all it was a most wonderful day and I had a good talk with a lot of relatives I hadn't seen for a long time. Some of them had come back from quite a distance.
I got back here at about 5:30, full of food and happy thoughts. I will just have time to complete this little note before it gets too dark for me to remember and write it down. Then I will put it away in my secretary. I wonder who will find it later on and what will they think? Will they think I am just an old lady feeling sorry for myself or will they get a laugh out of it? How can I end it? Will I write "That's it folks" like someone used to say on the radio or will I say something else?
For one thing, I will say "Merry Christmas" to all my friends who are still here. For those who aren't maybe a little quotation from that beautiful "Bidding Prayer" we heard at the "Lessons & Carol Service" we attended at Cambridge when Fred was there. I can't remember it all but I do remember the part "Let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light."
Now I will watch The TV-news and go down with the lady down the hall. There will be a little party and then a happy good night to all.