Despite the fact that we were poor and didn’t have much to spare, my mother knew how to create a special atmosphere in the house. She would decorate the tree on Christmas Eve while we were asleep. Although there was no gift giving for many years, I fondly remember that wonderful moment when we would lay eyes on the adorned tree. She would surprise us with special treats at the dinner table. She was such a great cook. There would always be a big Norwegian twist bread, with red and green cherries on top. A delicious roasted turkey would sit on the table. For dessert, she would prepare small fruit baskets for each of us. She’d start with half a grapefruit, remove the pulp and sculpt a zigzagged edge. Then she’d fill it up with fruit salad and use a metal wire to fashion a handle, all wrapped up in decorative ribbon. It was so pretty.

And then, one year, small presents started to appear under the tree. I can still remember the excitement of receiving a wool hat and a pair of red mittens with rabbit fur trim. The younger ones got small toys.

We have always had a nice Christmas tree, although my mother would be in tears each year because she was afraid we would not be able to afford one. Dad would always bring it at the very last minute. She would use all her skills to transform it into a thing of beauty with her handmade decorations. It brings back some fond memories. My poor father would always be saddened by the fact he could not get us gifts. Nonetheless, we kids still thought these were the happiest of times.

Some years, we would get a Christmas box from the Saint-Vincent de Paul. We would all gather around it. One year, when I was older, some small gifts accompanied the food. I got a pair of silk stockings which I wore at church for Christmas Mass. I opened up my coat to make sure people could see them, thinking to myself, “Look at what I got for Christmas!”
 
Shirley Bélec Fauteux at 14  Shirley Bélec Fauteux at 84

 

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