It’s that time of year once again that our thoughts turn to family. It’s hard for it not to with all the Christmas decorations and shopping going on. There are different reactions to family, you either partially dread the “big” day or you live to be there.
When I was younger it was “live to be there” time, I remember becoming very excited about starting the Christmas rituals. Every year we would go to Tante Ruth & Uncle Wolf’s for Christmas Eve. They moved to Canada during the ’50’s from Germany and my mom & dad became good friends with them and when Christina, their daughter, and I came along it seemed natural for all of us to spend this time together.
Uncle Wolf was the banquet manager at the Bankers club in Toronto, because of this the dinners on Christmas Eve were peppered with lots of things that a wide-eyed little girl would probably never have been exposed to. Sweet Breads, Turtle soup, Caviar and Smoked Salmon to name a few that stick in my mind….to this day I blame my smoked salmon obsession on Uncle Wolf and Tante Ruth.
Christina, being my elder by 4 years was the instigator in all things exciting at this time of year. We had to wait until “adult” time was over before opening gifts. When we were really young she would tell me what all the gifts were for my family before we opened them, no way she could keep the secret. Christina would open all her gifts in about 5 seconds flat. However, before we were even allowed near the tree we had to do something to get our gifts.
Christina’s choice was to recite a poem, sometimes in both English and German, I always sang a little song, nervously. Then a very stern Tante Ruth would make all of us sing carols and then she would read from the bible, which would cause giggles from my mother, since the passage she read had the words “swaddling clothes” in it. Because of her heavy German accent it came out very differently, causing my mom to try not to giggle.
As we entered our teen years, after dinner and gifts we would go upstairs to watch TV and let the adults talk, this is where the real education began, for some reason they always played “blue” movies on Christmas eve, of course, that stopped when one of our parents came to see what we were up to – I think Christina got in big trouble for letting me see that one year. The next year started the tradition of watching “King Kong”, sometimes both versions.
Back then there were only 2 versions, my husband couldn’t figure out why when the new version came out a few years ago I had absolutely no interest in seeing it, since I am a block buster kind of movie watcher. I had to explain the years of being subjected to this movie and my now through dislike of it.
Christmas Eve’s came to an end the year that Uncle Wolf died. I think we tried a few years later to pick them up again, but it was never the same without him, there were to many memories, to many happy times that were gone because that wonderful man had left us. Then my own father died a few years later and everything really did come to a halt.
Every so often, Tante Ruth tries to get me to come for Christmas Eve to try to get that Christmas magic back but I’ve been reluctant to even try, it just doesn’t feel the same anymore…besides, I’m nervous she’ll still make me sing before getting my gift.
Dreaming Big in TO,