Friday, December 23, 2011

A Country Christmas

This is Christmas Day, 2009. Due to weather conditions (anticipated freezing rain), I am not driving to West Lincoln to celebrate this event with my daughter and her family. Instead I reflected on Christmases past and present. I have a personal friend, a WWII Veteran living in United States who was unable, also, to be with his family. As an urban New Yorker having lived in Queens many years and other metropolitan areas, his perception of a country Christmas was probably...only idolized on Currier and Ives winter scenes.  To him I sent this
narration which generated our Christmas Day conversation.


In the 1930's in Southern Ontario, winter arrived in November and continued to the end of March...always snow on the ground...always snow drifts along the rural roads due to “open fields”... always a “snow fort” to play in until spring...always a temperature below freezing level.

Robert and Edna met at a rural Church Bazaar one summer...she from Norwich, he from Vanessa...several miles apart. A couple years later, after only minimal rendez-vous, they were married...she leaving 4 younger siblings and he the same. Born on farms, they continued to raise crops, milk cows and produce cheese; tend to 3 or 4 “work horses” who pulled “stone boats”, ploughs and farm wagon. It was the “age of early automobiles”. Robert had purchased a Model T Ford. Edna missed her family over the long winters but was content with the summer family picnics and Christmas Day. Within a few years, they had 2 young children. She was busy with them, helping Robert with the morning and evening milkings...growing vegetables and fruit....planting and tending her flower gardens of annuals and perennials.

Wanting to delight her in this almost  house-bound  wintry season,  Robert realized that taking her “Home for Christmas” was a challenge...the long snowy winters and drifted gravel roads were impossible for his Model T Ford.
As a surprise, his Present for Her was a Christmas visit to her Homestead.

Robert saddled Whistler, a part-Percheron horse, and to the harness each side he attached leather straps of bronze-finished bells. He hitched Whistler to an open double seated sleigh. Edna gathered from her cellar, gifts of preserved fruits and vegetables....Robert a few of his wood-crafted items, very practical for any farm use. The little girls had nose-gays of dried flowers from their mother's summer gardens. They were dressed in snow suits, hand knitted scarves, hats and mittens. Mother and father in their cold-weather winter clothes with flannel underwear. Over their laps were bear-skin rugs and surrounding blankets.

Edna was So Excited about this trip “Home for Christmas”!
All through the 10 to 15 miles of travel, they marvelled at
the sparkling crested snow, the ice-glittered trees, the frozen ponds,
the frosted breath of horse and family. 
They sang songs as Whistler trotted a steady pace.
(This experience resembled the illustrated scenes of Currier and Ives.)
Then arriving near Kelvin, the farm road led down a long sloping hill of freshly-laden snow and roadside drifts as high as the sleigh.
Robert was ecstatic with his achievement of presenting this
 Gift to his Precious Family.

In the valley lay her Homestead...a 2 1/2 story yellow brick home, the outer machine shed and wood-clad barns; tall evergreens sparkled with  freshly fallen "marshmallow snow"  on their sturdy boughs. Laddie barked to announce their arrival and the sleigh bells rang “Merry Christmas”.

Edna jumped from the sleigh and rushed to the back door into waiting arms...hugs, kisses and Merry Christmases to Anna, Dorothy, Luella and Willie. George and Lily were So see first-born daughter and adorable grand children whom they had not seen since the summer picnic!

Whistler gave a happy snort when the  ladened sleigh stopped, then unsaddled and taken to the barn for rest...with the farm's warm stabled horses! He was rewarded with a pail of water, a rub-down, hay and oats...with  also welcoming neighs and snickers from his barn companions.

This story is personal...Robert and Edna were my parents;
the children were my older sister, Eileen and me.
Merle Baird-Kerr
December 25, 2009

The following Christmas or Winter song   
is so appropriate for the above family story.

Dashing through the snow
in a one- horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
laughing all the way.
Bells on bob tails ring
making spirits bright.
What fun it is to laugh and sing
a sleighing song tonight.

Oh, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way.
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in a one-horse open sleigh.
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in a one-horse open sleigh.

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . submitted December 23, 2011
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  1. I Love this beautiful showcase of your historical experience with your
    beloved Family. Posted as usual, in a most
    Seasonal Time...Merry Christmas, to you,one,
    and all.

  2. Thank You Sol for your ever, a dedicated "follower"; perhaps, this narration will instill with readers, reflections of "Christmas" in their early years.