Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas photos from the chocolate box

"Christmas isn't the same anymore." That's what my mom said last night.

"Your father loved Christmas and it doesn't seem the same without him."

I found these old photos in a long-empty chocolate box when I was looking for photos of him and Aunt Judy for my last post. When all of these were taken, Christmas was pure, unadulterated magic. My siblings and I would get so wound up on Christmas Eve that we'd puke all night. My poor mother. It was bad enough, doing all the work she had to do to prepare, without the added burden of holding back hair, wiping foreheads and cleaning up from those who didn't make it down the hall.

My mom says Christmas isn't the same without Dad, but it has always been Mom who has made the holiday spring to life. She never missed a beat: all the food was homemade and fabulous. Her fudge was neighbourhood renowned. She stored it in a green Tupperware crisper in the bar fridge in the basement, making it in advance so there'd be plenty on Dec. 25. We'd steal it every chance we got in the weeks before, until, invariably, she'd be forced to make fudge on Dec. 24 because we'd cleaned the Tupperware out of everything but crumbs.

Mom had a record book for Christmas cards. In the days before computers, this was her storage unit of addresses, births, deaths, who sent a card last year, who was sent a card, new people, old people – it was all there. As a result, our own house was filled with cards from well-wishers from far and near. Mom hung them all over the house, resplendent in their own Christmassy glory.

She shopped, she wrapped, she decorated, she baked, she worked and worked and worked and I never heard a word of complaint.

Mom, maybe you're feeling a little down this year, maybe you do feel Christmas isn't the same without Dad. But I can tell you, without any word of a lie, that as long as we have you, we will always have Christmas.

Top photo: My mom on Christmas morning in Markham, Ont., mid-1970s.
Above, family photo in Midland. That's me, Mom, my brother Billy and my Dad.
We were posed in the parlour of the old Victorian house on Seventh Street.
 It was a room we were almost never allowed in – the exception
was piano practice and Christmas Day. This photo was probably taken in 1965,
before my sister, Liz, was born in 1967. I remember that old teddy bear.
Much loved, it was.

My parents, probably at a New Year's Eve party.
Look how young and adorable they are.

Christmas, mid-1970s. I think I was in Grade 11 because I remember that stupid haircut.
That's my cousin, Karen, in my lap with one of her ratty dolls. She got a new doll every Christmas
and then proceeded to demolish it with bubble gum and jam and other muck.
On the couch is her brother, Paul, with her parents, Uncle Howard and Aunt Mary,
as well as my brother and my dad.

Once Christmas morning was out of the way we went to my grandparents' house in Buttonville, Ont.
That's a photo of me with my Grandma, Hazel Hooper (and my cousin David in the foreground).
Grandma's house plays a big part in the novel I'm writing. This room, in fact, stars as
Weezie Polk's refuge from the big bad world. The house is torn down, has been for decades,
to make room for a stupid industrial plaza, but I'll never forget it.

Bill, Liz and me, probably around 1973.
Doesn't everybody look kind of dopey and messed up on Christmas morning?
Or was it just us? Liz certainly looks raring to go!

Not sure what year this was, but I was probably a senior in high school, judging by my haircut.
(How I judge everything but I really am terrible at remembering dates.)
One of our family's many traditions included a photo of stocking hanging on Christmas Eve.

Check out the tape recorder one of us got for Christmas. At the time it was
pretty high-tech equipment.


  1. I had several of those little tape recorders.... weren't they wonderful!

  2. Wonderful memories of Christmas past. Our mothers worked so hard on Christmas. I think all Dad did was set up the tree and carve the turkey.
    Reel to reel tape recorders. I had one of those too. It looked like a book so no one would know you were recording. I don't think it fooled anyone.

  3. That wasn't a chocolate box, it was a treasure chest. What fabulous photos, and look at little you with your blonde hair. You look like your mom.

  4. Har! That last, always on the cutting edge of technology. My folks bought a tape deck back in the early '70s and it must have weighed 20lbs.

    And, I honestly thought that first pic was of you!

  5. You are so lucky to have photos of your "Christmas' past" Kathy! I only have a few photos of when my children were young becasue I was too broke to buy aa camera! Sounds silly to say that now, but I wish I gave up a few meals to get that darn camera. Oh & my childhood, that's another story!...:)JP

  6. Thanks for sharing your Christmas memories.
    The first photo of you opening a present brought back a flood of memories for me. I had quite forgotten the familiar silver Simpson's gift boxes. Good old Simpsons Department Store.

  7. Your old Christmas pics look a lot like the ones I remember. I remember the excitment but not losing my lunch and my brother got one of those high tech cassette recorders too.

    Thanks for sharing Cathy.

    You have yourself a Merry Little Christms!

  8. Cro - they were wonderful! Nothing more satisfying than pressing down on those big clunky keys to make wonderful sound blaze forth. I always wanted to be a reporter, even back then, and I used the tape recorder to conduct all too important interviews, fancying myself Lois Lane.

  9. You got it, Delores. The moms really were the worker bees and the unsung heroes. I often blog about my Dad because he's passed on but I find I don't talk about my mother often enough and I feel remiss about that. She is truly a wonderful, wonderful person and I love her very much.

  10. A treasure box, Laurita. Yes. Absolutely. Just like your treasure Christmas tree! (Only mine smells vaguely like chocolate, which is a bonus.) Me, my sister, my Mom, my Grandma, my Great-Grandma and a number of my cousins, all look like we were cloned. I think that's a good thing.

  11. Alan - I know! My mom was a lot younger in that photo than I am now, but still, you can definitely see the resemblance. My mom now looks a lot like my grandma did at her age and my grandma looked like my Great Grandma as she aged. The great thing is, I can look at all these women and see how I will turn out at various stages of life.

    We have a joke in our family: we're always fat throughout our lives until we get old. Then we get really skinny but by then we're too senile to appreciate it.

    *shaking my fist at God*

  12. Yup, Deb, that was my Mom, not me. You were obviously dazzled by the Simpsons' box. My Aunt Mary commented on that box on Facebook, too.

    If you got a box from Simpsons, you knew you were going to be getting something really, really good. Those boxes were iconic, a truly Canadian experience.

    Eatons boxes were good, too, but there was something about those silvery wavy Simpsons boxes. Sigh...

  13. Harry, thanks so much for your Christmas wishes. It's always a pleasure to see you dropping around. You're such a witty commenter and always welcome here at the River. Happy holidays to you as well.

    (And lucky you, hanging onto your lunch.)

  14. i love those old black and whites - hang onto them and their memories! Happy Holidays Cathy.

  15. Quiet - Sorry about the camera. I am lucky that my parents always had at least one or two kicking around. And we have boxes and boxes of my father's home movies.

    Michael - Thanks! And happy holidays right back atcha!


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