This year the Goat’s Andrea Arnold reached out to local people for their memories of Christmases and holidays past. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Pete Pearson has many memories of Christmas but feels that since becoming a grandparent, the season has taken on a whole new dimension.
“One great Christmas memory would a trip to the Toronto area to share the holidays with my wife Kerry’s family and Christmas with our grandchildren Noah and Nyiah,” said Pearson.
He enjoyed meeting the family but being with the grandkids on Christmas morning made it extra special.
“Now we are also lucky enough to have Amelia to see at Christmas here in Valemount,” he said.
At the age of 12, McBride resident Diane Smith learned that snooping for presents can have some unpleasant results.
“My dad was a barber,” she said. “I had asked for a typewriter and decided to go snooping to see if I got one.”
Snooping wasn’t something she had done before.
“I went into Mom and Dad’s closet and started rooting in a box. I pulled out some clothing and felt this round thing. I looked in the cloth and it scared me to bits.”
She had found a mannequin head her father used for practices.
“I swear I’ve never snooped again for any present,” she said. “I did get the typewriter that year.”
During a more recent Christmas, Smith’s oldest son and daughter had her questioning her sanity. She had a three layer jello dessert cooling in the fridge. When she pulled it out to add the custard and whipped cream, it was missing a layer.
“I did the third layer again,” she said. “My daughter just told me a few years ago how she and Jason carefully removed and ate the third layer.”
Sometimes the most powerful memory is one accompanied with fear and sadness. For Allan Frederick, the memory of December 1988 holds some of these feelings.
“In early December my daughter was rushed into the hospital in Edmonton,” said Frederick.
At the time, they lived in the small community of Boyle, just under two hours north of the city.
Diagnosed with meningitis, his five-month-old daughter spent almost two weeks in intensive care. Frederick and his wife were told by the specialist that their small child could suffer long-term effects such as blindness, deafness or that she may be slow to learn as she grew up.
“She was finally released from the hospital just prior to Christmas and we were able to take her home,” he said. The diagnosis and the unknown future made that Christmas a sad one for the family.
However, the memory does not end there.
“She has fully recovered from the illness and is not blind, deaf and/or a slow learner,” said Frederick. “She is a successful and vibrant member of society living a healthy and happy life.”
Donna Perkins had a doll when she was four years old. She had literally loved it to pieces.
“My dad tried to fix it,” she said. “But he wasn’t able to.”
Her parents convinced her to put the doll under the Christmas tree.
“They said that maybe Santa would replace it, but only maybe.”
In the morning, in the place of the old one was a brand new one. The old one was taken and the elves would try to fix it to pass it on to someone else.
“I still have that doll,” she said.
Glen Frear’s memory comes from the feeling of being together. For him, it wasn’t any one moment.
“My grandparents lived in Jasper,” he said. “It was the Christmas destination for most family members.”
He recalls playing with cousins, all close in age to him and his sister.
“Santa even visited one year.”
There was one present that he remembers receiving. It was a model Austin Martin with all the same features as one in a James Bond movie.
“I’m pretty sure the missiles were missing by Boxing Day,” he said.
Christmas in Valemount in the 60s is where Donnie Maclean’s strongest memories were made. These memories, still visceral with all five senses, include a close connection to family and friends.
“Tobogganing on Daredevil Hill, feeling your woolen mitts balled with snow and your fallen socks balled up in the toes of your boots,” said MacLean. “Skating on Cranberry Marsh, or watching my brothers and their friends playing road hockey while cars drove around them. Our family trudging through the deep snow looking for the perfect tree and relatives from out-of-town visiting. Older cousins, great aunts and grandparents who had time and patience to play games with small kids.”
Some of her memories of the times spent together are the sounds the woodstove made while drying their wet, steaming tobogganing clothes. She remembers chewy gumdrops skewered on the plastic tree on her Auntie Gwen’s dining table.
Tastes and smells that linger in her mind come from the oranges they would find stuffed in the toes of their stockings along with an assortment of shelled nuts. She recalls piles of shortbread cookies, mincemeat tarts, butter tarts and fruitcakes.
“I remember listening for sleigh bells on Christmas eve under a brilliant starlit sky,” she said. Her family and friends gathered for “singsongs” where her mom played the piano and her Uncle Harry played the violin.
“My Dad and their friends sang mostly in tune while enjoying glasses of Christmas cheer,” she said.
“These are my favourite memories of Christmas from my childhood here. I love Christmas and how it brings people together.”
Daryl and Dianne Roth remember the first Christmas their oldest son was walking.
“He was just over a year old,” said Daryl. “We cut all the branches off the bottom three feet or so, so he couldn’t pull things off.”
They set up a kids table and chairs in the place of the branches and he loved to sit under it. They continued this for several years as their family grew until the boys reached an age they could be trusted with low hanging ornaments.
The Ontario community of Woodlawn where Hollie Blanchette grew up was even smaller than Valemount.
“I grew up in an old farm house,” said Blanchette. “Very Norman Rockwell like.”
Her grandparents would visit for a few days most Christmases.
She remember her grandpa laying under the tree with her brother Tim, shaking presents.
“Grandma would be sitting in her chair watching,” she said. “She’d yell at Grandpa, ‘George! Stop that! You’re being a bad example.’”
He didn’t stop, in spite of her scolding. In fact, he wouldn’t let the kids do the shaking.
“He said he knew what things were so he could shake them.”