Tuesday, 16 December 2008

At the store Christmas party the other day, one of the ladies who contributes to making our store what it is, was talking about what her Christmas was like in Italy when she was a child. She spoke of the things they did not have because of the war, and of all that they had instead. She talked of community and family and food. Community and family and food always sends my thoughts to my Auntie Lorraine.

A very long time ago I made a wee beaded Christmas tree for my mom. It was something that came out of a McCall's craft magazine (IIRC) many many many moons ago. It was admired by one and all. My mom's sister, Aunt Lorraine really liked it and since she enjoyed Christmas more than just about any season, my mom decided she needed one too. I very happily obliged. After Auntie Lorraine's passing, the beaded tree came back to me.

My Aunt Lorraine was a special person. She was unmarried and lived at home taking care of Grandma, till Grandma passed away and her brother Uncle Victor till she died. She had a passel of nieces and nephews who each called her their own.

She worked in her younger days as a cook in the hospital in the small town I grew up in, and worked in Saskatoon in hospitals and nursing homes too. She was a very, very cook cook and loved to make good things for all the local events. A paternal aunt, who knew her well, said to me at her funeral, 'we're sure going to miss Lorraine's things'. Since we were talking about egg salad sandwiches (the staple food of community events in small town Saskatchewan) , I took it to mean that she made a superior egg salad sandwich. I remember her baking, her donuts, her cookies. Auntie Lorraine always had a full cookie jar and if it was not too close to dinner, the cookie jar came your way the moment you walked into the door, sheer heaven to any 6 year old at heart. She had mastered the art of the expandable table, meaning that if you and seventeen other relatives showed up a half hour before dinner, you sat down to a feast to eat.

But Auntie Lorraine was many other things too. She may have been a simple farm woman, but I think that she came to be that as many of people in those days did. You stayed out of a sense of duty and a sense of what was right. You may have regretted your lot in life, you might have wished for something different, but you did not let those regrets dominate your days. You did what needed doing and you got on with life.

She loved pretty things and collected lots of interesting things. When I was a child, there was a cabinet full of salt and pepper shakers in a high cabinet. Somewhere along the way, she started collecting bells and since I was a wee small child, there were whispers that Auntie Lorraine collected dolls. As I grew to be an adult, the stories of her doll collection became almost legend.

I don't know how many were in her collection at her death, but I do know it was huge. There was a doll for each and every niece, nephew, great niece and great nephew, and sister, and very likely brother too,plus as bunch for herself. In the last 6 or seven years of her life, she began to pass on these collections, keeping only her most treasured ones for herself.

Above, you see my wee mousy bell, the only mouse I willingly allow in my home, my pumpkin salt and pepper shakers, my doll, and the dolls of sons 1, 2 and 3.

Auntie Lorraine is gone now, and I have these things she choose for me and my sons, and that I made for her. Much as I love them, the thing that I remember most is the thing that really matters at this time of year. I remember the sound of her voice, how her eyes crinkled right up when she smiled, and the sound of her laughter. I remember being scolded when we raided the pea patch and looked on fondly when we brought her eggs from the chicken coop without breaking any.

Going to Auntie Lorraine's meant going home, and being with the ones you loved and sharing food and stories and laughter. It meant sitting in the big kitchen, having a coffee, and some cookies. It meant comfort and love.

She might be gone now, as are many of her brothers and sisters, but among the large clan that we are, when you think of Christmas you think of Auntie Lorraine and you just feel good.


Anonymous said...

Except that today, for some reason, it brings tears to my eyes. GD

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful memory of your aunt. I'm sure she is smiling down on you. I miss our big Italian family xmas with all my aunts,uncles cousins. Those were great days and so different from today.Long distance does put a damper on the holidays.


Mo said...

I miss my Aunt Gladys - who had a family of seven boys and invited EVERYONE to her home on Christmas Eve. We ate in shifts at first and then, when the boys got married and had families of their own, we ate buffet style - wherever you could find a spot to sit.
Christmas will always be the smell of Lutefisk cooking and the taste of tinbrod. Thanks for reminding me (I celebrated many a Christmas in small town Saskatchewan and I hope to head back this year!).
All the best to you and yours!

Knitting Alchemist said...

Your Christmas memories are lovely, and completely foreign to me. We had no relatives close by, and few at all, so my dad would recruit a lonely gentleman from the local seniors home to share the day with us. I was too small to really appreciate the guest, but I'm sure my parents enjoyed having him.