December 16, 1994 (Vol. 2, No. 2)
I woke up feeling the crisp chilly air around me. My younger sister snuggled in close to draw warmth from my back. I could hear my father chopping kind ling on the front porch as it echoed through the cold air. The goose-feathered comforter on our bed kept the coldness out and we burrowed ourselves warm and content.
This was a special morning and one we would remember for years to come. It was Christmas morning and we were “all” home with our parents, grandparents and the people in the village. There were 10 children in the family in which I grew up.
We had stayed behind to witness the summer end and experienced the sorrows of parting as family after family of hunters left the village for their winter hunting grounds. Silhouetted against the sky were the empty tent frames of their summer homes. The forlorn howl of a dog or two who had been left behind expressed the emptiness of the village. We played and explored around the village, missing our playmates but delighted we were home.
It was an unusual Fall for our family. It was the first time in many years we were not leaving the village to go out to school. My father had been busy during the summer with a village full of people. He spent long hours in the store, flying out frequently to replenish his stock. Now he had more time to do enjoyable things with us. My mother was like a child who had been left all her toys for a longer season. We were loved and pampered by both of them and our Grandparents. We relished every moment of it.
We watched the geese fly high overhead as they made their way south. The lake gradually froze over and when it was safe enough, we had a perfect skating rink. The snow came and stayed. We had rabbit stews with huge fluffy dumplings, moose meat with plain and raisin bannock. The thought of fried fish and ducks as only my mother knew how to cook them makes my tastebuds soar. As the weather grew colder, we’d wake up in the morning making puffs of cold air with our warm breath.
First thing each morning, bare feet would hit the cold floor as my brothers would scamper to get dressed. Making their way to the nearest toboggan, they would slide down the hill outside our door. Each one came in shivering cupping their ears to huddle around the wood stove, sometimes arguing about who had reached the bottom of the hill first.
As December approached, we felt the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. Our home became a flurry of excitement and expectations. Our house smelled of cinnamon and ginger. The kitchen table was covered with brown paper as my mother transferred doughnuts from the frying pan to the table. Temptation lay before us and with eager hands we managed to pluck one each before the watchful eyes of my mother and her helpers caught us.
My father and the boys bundled up and headed for the woods to find the perfect tree and to check rabbit snares. The smell of the fresh needles on the branches filled the living room. The tree stood graced with beautiful sparkling and glittering decorations that shimmered in the light of the Coleman lamp that hung from a hook in the ceiling.
There is a small group of people who stayed year-round in the village. Among them was the Hudson’s Bay manager and his family, the Iserhoffs and their families. These were the guests who came to share our Christmas Eve with us. They arrived pounding their feet to shake off the loose snow and proceeded to remove layer upon layer of clothing. They stood around the fire, rubbing their hands together to warm them before seating themselves in the living room. We sang Christmas carols with our parents and wondered why every Christmas couldn’t be like this.
Doors in the north are never locked and so throughout the evening, numbers of callers came to stand by the entrance to spend some time with us. My father at the midnight hour made his way to the store and with careful instructions to keep the bedroom door closed, he would return with his booming, “Flo, ho, ho,” and make a comment such as, “Are all the good boys and girls fast asleep?”
Our gifts were few but somehow this made them more meaningful and dearer to our memories. My gift that year was a light green, velvet-covered seashell-type container which held a pearl-handled manicure set. I knew my father had bought it on one of his fur-selling trips in Montreal. There were bright-coloured scarves, beautiful embroidered mitts and slippers. Multi-coloured socks, winter hats and woolen mits. Our stockings were filled with oranges, nuts and candy.
My parents had “open house” on Christmas Day. As each family arrived, the children picked a bag of candy from under the tree. Their parents sat drinking tea and eating doughnuts with my parents in the kitchen. I can still hear the soft laughter and happy voices echoing through my memory.
We think of Christmas as a time of gathering together and the excitement of returning home to families. The thing I like the most about winter at home is the glittering whiteness of the snow against the cool clear blue sky. The softness of the snow beneath my moccasins as I walk along the winter paths.
The delightful squeals of the children as they slide down the hill across the bay in vision of my front window. I relive my memories and build new ones with my sons and grandchildren.
May you have a wonderful Christmas, one you will remember with fond memories and cherishedmoments. Have a blessed Christmas season and may you find the true meaning of Christmas. Thebirth of Jesus.
Looking forward to seeing you during the holidays.