Friday, December 9, 2016

A Country Christmas

This is Christmas Day, 2009. Due to weather conditions,
 I am not driving to West Lincoln to visit 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. Thus, I emailed the following to him on Christmas afternoon.

I recalled that decades ago 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 temperatures 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...and on a treadle Singer sewing machine, made clothes.

Wanting to please her, 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 wore flannel underwear beneath. 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 12 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 was like 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. 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 Thrilled to see first-born daughter and adorable grand children whom they had not seen since the summer picnic!

Whistler gave a happy snort when the sleigh stopped, then unsaddled and taken to the barn to rest...with the stabled horses! He was rewarded with a pail of water, a rub-down, hay and oats.

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
Comments appreciated ...email:  mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca or inezkate@gmail.com

4 comments:

  1. SHERRIE Writes: "Oh Merle! I could cry; this is so beautifully written."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks greatly, Sherrie; my intention was that
    those unacquainted with 'country life'
    would gain some appreciation for a rural Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  3. RICHARD Comments: "Though I've been busy with upgrades to my guest house (Eagle Adventures), I have neglected a lot of social issues. I feel like I am staying close by, reading your blog(s).
    Have a Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!"

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you greatly, Richard, for your comments. You certainly had a wonderful summer for your exciting ventures. So pleased you are well and busy. To you and family, I extend a happy and wonderful season of joy!

    ReplyDelete