the ghosts of christmases past

christmas photo when kathy mercure was 10

This year I find myself struggling to catch the ever more elusive Christmas spirit. There seems to be a shorter and shorter window each year where I sing carols and look forward to the day.

Don't get me wrong; I love Christmas, just not like I used to when I was a kid. Christmas was the best time ever as a kid. So many memories of the loot I used to get! Coming from a big family that and parents that completely bought into post-WWII consumerism (yay for us kids!), we always had Christmases that were like Ralphie Parker's from one of my top five fave Christmas movies: A Christmas Story…

Actually, just remembering this movie is making me laugh and remember the wonders of Christmas as a kid. It has the best writing ever, the voiceover of adult Ralphie is perfectly over the top and so what I remember as Christmas as a kid. If you haven't seen the movie, watch the trailer: I triple dog dare ya!

The Fibish household was prepared for its… “yearly bacchanalia of peace on Earth and goodwill to men…. We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.”
                                      — slightly adapted from the movie, A Christmas Story

 

So here are my Ghosts of Christmases Past as told in pictures…

Linda (l) and Kathy (r; age 4)

Linda (l) and Kathy (r; age 4)

This is the first picture I have of me at Christmas. That’s my big sister Linda on the left and me on the right. Judging by the length of my hair, I would say I was about 4. Never was afraid of Santa, but my older crumudgeonly self no longer enjoys sitting on Santa’s lap.

Thank goodness there is no photo of the year of the Chatty Cathy doll (circa 1967 methinks). It would not have been a happy picture, but thatsa whole other blog.

 

The Year of the Housecoat; 1971

The Year of the Housecoat; 1971

According to the date on this photo, this was probably from Christmas 1971, the year I was 10. It was the Year of the Christmas Housecoat in the Fibish family. I loved this quilted beauty. That’s my little brother Bill (7) and my little sister Annette (4). Please notice my poor saintly mother, who despite having one helluva flu (she and my second-oldest sister Arlene both) on Christmas Day, still managed to put on a Christmas feast for about 20 family members. My sister Arlene had the same housecoat as my mom, but in shades of blue. Precious, non?! (and kinda hilarious that they also both wore shades of green!).

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[I have been corrected by my sister Theresa who remembers well that Mom was indeed too sick to make Christmas dinner, so after we opened up our gifts, we went to my Aunt Jean's house for dinner, and they stayed home being sick, but at least peaceful. Not to knock my Mom or Arlene, but not wonder it was the best Christmas ever! The times I spent at my aunt's place were some of my favourite times.]

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Photo of my Favourite Christmas Dress of all time

Pretty sure this was taken the same year. This is my favourite Christmas outfit ever. The pink blouse had accordion pleats in the arms. I wore it even when I couldn't get it done up in the back anymore until my mom noticed and made me stop. :-(

Notice there was no snow on the ground that Christmas. I actually lived in fear of snow on Christmas Day because that might mean that my cousins, Maureen and Rosanne, may not be able to make the trip from Vancouver into the boonies of Surrey for our feast. Don't think it ever happened, but it hung over us like icicles waiting to poke your eye out. (Really... watch A Christmas Story)

It was also the year I got my favourite gift ever — an Easy Bake Oven. Mom even fooled me into believing I wasn’t getting one. When I opened the box, my face must have looked like this:

 

Ralphie's dad gives him an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

Ralphie's dad gives him an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

You really need to watch the movie if you haven’t… a classic.

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CORRECTION: I think I must have been 9 the year I got the Easy-Bake Oven, because I distinctly remember baking cakes in it. Since we spent Christmas at my aunt's when I was 10, it must have been earlier.

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Dad (l), and his brother, Doug (r)

Dad (l), and his brother, Doug (r)

Most every Christmas (or any family gathering) looked like this after a dinner of turkey. Real men slept it off wearing argyle socks, while the women kibitzed in the kitchen as they did the dishes by hand.

Kids… well some of us ate nothing more than potatoes and gravy, others lived for the fruit salad loaded with Miracle Whip with their turkey, but NONE of us helped clean up I can assure you.

My first best friend, Vicki.

My first best friend, Vicki.

One of my favourite Christmas traditions was the annual hike (in my nightgown) over to my childhood best friend Vicki’s house that was three doors down (I took the back route) where I would enjoy a very proper British Christmas, complete with Mrs. Swan’s shortbread and mincemeat tarts.

My first grown-up Christmas 1980.

My first grown-up Christmas 1980.

Jump ahead a bunch of years to 1980, the year my cousin Maureen and I moved in together on November 30, 1980. I had this crazy and uniquely selfish idea to invite everyone in our families over to our new swinging hip apartment in Kitsilano. We made roasters full of meal-in-one (my favourite anytime pretty much to this day) and all our guests had to do was bring us an ornament to trim our tree with. I still have all of my share of the ornaments. Since this party happened December 7th, and this picture was taken after Christmas, this tree is getting pretty saggy!

Finally convinced my mom to get a Real Tree in 1981

One year I actually convinced my mom to have a real tree instead of the fake one I grew up with (and actually loved). Not sure exactly when this is, but my sister Theresa (who knows her kids by teeth and other body parts) says this is 1981 (sorry sis, can't be earlier 'cause the photo below can't have been before 1981) [Dear Readers, sorry to bring you into our family 'discussions']. My nieces Jennifer, Evonne, and nephew Jesse with someone's (my cousin Rosanne's perhaps?) puppy.

My mom gave me her old Christmas Tree in 1981

The same Christmas Tree I grew up with and convinced my mom to give me in 1981 or 1982. I even got a similar top to the one we had when I was a kid. The bacchanalia continued!

Mom's funeral, 1992 (l to r:) Linda, Arlene, Theresa, Dad, Annette, Kathy. (front:) Bill.

Mom's funeral, 1992 (l to r:) Linda, Arlene, Theresa, Dad, Annette, Kathy. (front:) Bill.

Fast-forward to December 1992, the year Mom died on December 1st. This is taken on the day of her funeral. A few days before she died she had a moment of fear and she begged my brother Bill to take her home for Christmas. I don’t have any pictures from that year, but I do remember we tried our best to be jolly like good soldiers.

My first Christmas with my dog Sophie 1995

I moved to Yellowknife in 1994 and new traditions abounded. This is me and my first all-mine dog Sophie. Christmas card, 1995.

Christmas 2003, the Great Fondue Festivus! My step-daughter, Marie-Laure and Cyril.

Christmas 2003, the Great Fondue Festivus! My step-daughter, Marie-Laure and Cyril.

Christmas 2003 was the best family Christmas since I was a kid. It was the year my hubby Cyril and I got married, and the year we invented the Christmas brunch to have all our Yellowknife orphans over in the morning, which allowed us to start a new tradition — the non-traditional Christmas cheese fondue — for Christmas dinner. Cyril truly makes the best fondue ever!

I’m proud to say I brought Christmas crackers to the family, and the tradition of opening gifts on two days (Christmas Eve and Day)!

I wish I could have found the one of the three of us taken for the Year of the Christmas Housecoat Part 2. We wore them when we went for a walk in a rare Yellowknife Christmas Eve snowstorm at a balmy -2°C. It was fun, and something Marie-Laure still talks about.

Then came the move to Edmonton in 2007, but also the Great Crash of 2008 (both the economy and my computer, apparently). So many great pictures… gone, including our Christmas spent in Mexico! I back up like a madwoman now.

Nobody cares if you have to wear a dumb hat if you get a really great prize! Christmas 2009, our first in New Brunswick. The Christmas cracker tradition continues.

Nobody cares if you have to wear a dumb hat if you get a really great prize! Christmas 2009, our first in New Brunswick. The Christmas cracker tradition continues.

Dane doesn't like Santa in 2010

I'm sorry, I just had to put this in! My niece, Ashley, came at Christmas time in 2009. We took her son, Dane, for his first Christmas picture. He did not like it. Apparently Santa wasn't too jolly about it either...

Annual Antler Breakfast in Moncton, 2013

Annual Antler Breakfast in Moncton, 2013

I wonder what this Christmas will bring? As I’ve moved away from my family and have been adopted into a new one, I realize how important the gifts ARE NOT, and how important the company we keep IS.

This year there won’t be a tree because the lights have gone out and Cyril who can fix anything can’t seem to fix this problem. So, we’ll finish my light project from last January that I started because I missed the glow of Christmas lights in the basement where we put up our tree. A few authentic tin tinsels ought to make it feel Christmas-ey. I hope so anyway.

Can we puh-leaze go to bed!

Can we puh-leaze go to bed!

Off we’ll go to celebrate with Cyril’s family in Four Roads again. It’s a big raucous celebration that reminds me of ghosts of my own family Christmases. Now we open our gifts on Christmas Eve. Papa threatens to make us wait until Christmas, but it's him who can't wait, so we always begin by 10:00 p.m. And Lulu always wants to go bed because she doesn't get what all the fuss is about.

OMG, he is sooooo cute!

OMG, he is sooooo cute!

the ghosts of christmaeses past

Now that we have a grandson, I think we’re going to have to spend a Christmas with our daughter’s family soon. As a Grandmimi, I think a third generation of Christmas bacchanalia is in order, don't you?!

Whatever your plans, and however you celebrate the festive season, I wish for you to have your loved ones near.