One of my first memories of Christmas the year I was 4,1948.
We lived in England about 20 miles from London. The war had ended in 1945. It was a happy time, with my uncles returning home from service in far away places, glad to get on with their lives. Many things were scarce though, lots of food was still rationed well into the 1950's. Britain was busy manufacturing the necessities of life after too many years of building bombs and tanks, so there were not a lot of toys around.It was my Uncle Ben who made that Christmas so magical. He was a carpenter and had made gifts for all of us.
For my parents he had made a wooden tea tray, with a decal of a beautiful rose in the centre [I still have it]. For my brother he built a garage, what we now call a service station. It had two big doors and was large enough for our cat to crawl into.My gift was the best of all. A dollhouse!
Not only a dollhouse, but a fully furnished dollhouse! Not only a fully furnished dollhouse, but a fully furnished dollhouse that actually lit up!
Oh my, I was enchanted.Not only with the dollhouse but with my handsome Uncle Ben.
In 1949 Uncle Ben and his fiancée, Auntie Betty immigrated to Canada. Even though they were an ocean away,
He and his new wife continued to be the people who made our Christmas special.Year after year, around the middle of December we received two big boxes from Canada. My goodness, we were always so excited when they arrived. We would closely examine them. The stamps the brown paper and string. We tried to read the customs stickers, which never revealed anything, since Auntie Betty never wrote exactly what the gifts were.Mum made us wait to open the packages. After Dad came home from work, and teatime was over, and all the dishes
Were washed. That was the right time. It was an event.One box contained food. All sorts of food. Luxury food.
There were cans of salmon, cans of Niblets corn, enormous cans of ham, and a tin with a pretty picture on it filled with cookies. There were always bags of candy, boxes of chocolates and Chiclets gum.
Oh boy! My brother and I loved that Chiclets gum. It was the only thing we were allowed to have before Christmas. We didn't chew it all at once. Oh no. It was more fun to brag about it, take it outside to show our friends, let them shake the box to hear how it rattled. We were the only kids on our street that had relatives in Canada.
The second box was even more exciting than the first. This box contained our Christmas gifts.
Of course they were all wrapped up and stickered with ‘‘Do Not Open 'til December 25th'', but we got to see which parcel was ours. We could hold them and smell them and look at the gorgeous paper they were wrapped in.
Believe me that gift wrap was worth looking at. Our English Christmas wrapping paper was very thin and flimsy, mostly a white background with holly, or a tiny Santa printed on it. It was dutifully saved and reused each Christmas, until it wore out.
The Canadian gift-wrap was thick and rich and strong, and the colours so bright. I loved them. I vividly remember one paper, which had a black background and was printed with snowflakes, and a snowman with a green hat and red scarf. It was awesome.I can remember all the wonderful Christmas presents that came from Canada.
A Barbara Anne Scott figure skating doll, a music box, a watch, a pair of mitts with white fur on the back and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer printed on the red fronts. I was so proud of those mitts. When I wore them, I would walk or ride the busses with my hands held palms out so that everyone could see the lovely picture of Rudolph.My family joined Uncle Ben and Auntie Betty in Canada in 1957. We shared many a happy Christmas after that.
Sometime, in the 1980's I was reminiscing about the Rudolph mitts and added a little note in my uncle and aunt's Christmas card. I told them how much I had loved their gifts as a child, especially the Rudolph mitts. Neither one of them had any recollection of the mitts.I on the other hand can remember every detail, even how the smelled.They smelled of Canada.The dollhouse? It didn’t make it to Canada. It was handed down to younger cousins, and handed down again as they grew older.
I like to think that it is still being handed down.