Thursday, December 25, 2008

Long Ago Christmas Day Memories

Sleigh Team Draft Horses
Draft Horse with Alpaca in Maine
While I was looking out over the sun-dappled snowy landscape across the river today, I found myself blessed with a short, happy mental journey back to a seemingly simpler time in my boyhood days on the farm. After Christmas morning milking and other chores were done and a hearty breakfast of the best the farm had to offer, we would all gather around the tree in the sitting room. The tree, in all it's glory, lovingly adorned with mostly homemade decorations, sheltered the few offerings beneath its full lower branches. Perhaps that the gifts were few, but well thought out by the giver, made each one seem that much more precious to us. In my case, the biggest treat was to be found in the red wool sock hung on the fireplace mantle off to the side, a big juicy orange! On a really good year it was often accompanied by a grapefruit. These were both hard to come by in our winter markets and Uncle 'F' would attempt to special order them for his truck garden store in the little city.
After opening the usual array of wool socks, gum rubber boots for school, wool pants, and perhaps a scarf or two and assorted undergarments, I'd be allowed to go visit friends on the nearby farms for a bit. This was always a super way to spend the afternoon. First would come getting one or two of the draft horses fitted to haul either the small sleigh or the logging sled, then off over the 'snow lanes' to the other homes. 'Snow lanes', as we called them, were simply the pasture, logging, and other rude farm pathways that we used year around. In winter a large wooden 'roller' would be drawn over the lanes to pack the snow into a frozen 'roadway' for sleds, toboggans, sleighs, and other winter equipment.
The visits weren't lengthy, and were mostly intended to distribute treats ranging from pies to baskets of apples, to our closest neighbors. While I was out making my rounds, other kids & young adults from the other farms would be doing likewise and including a stop at our place. Often an adult wanting to visit a bit would hitch a ride from one of us to another farm and return with a different traveler later in the day who was headed toward their home.
The nicest thing about this little tradition was that it gave everyone a chance to see how their neighbors and friends were coping with the harsh winter weather and see if anyone was running low on anything. If a need was seen, a return trip, usually by an adult couple, at a later time would give all a reason for another visiting period and an opportunity to exchange needed items with others. This visit was normally done New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, depending on folks' availability.
After the visits were done Christmas Day, the horses tended to, chores done, milking over, firewood restocked in the pantry, and vehicles tucked into the barn, we'd have a nice dinner followed by listening to Uncle 'Rs' big battery powered radio as it related rousing stories of the adventures of various radio heroes or comic families of the day. Then, full of hot chocolate, another rare treat, and sated by the events of the day it was off to bury myself under a pile of very old, very warm quilts. Hope you all had a great day, we did here. Until next time, take care.

15 comments:

Kay said...

Thanks for taking us along with you on your journey through your Christmas memories. It felt so good to read it and imaginging the joy of the season on your farming neighborhood.

greymatters said...

Pardon the threadjerk, but I do want to (belatedly) send Happy Holiday wishes to you and to yours. I enjoy your emails, and sadly rarely have time to respond.

So, thank you, Mike. May you have a splendid 2009.

LINDA said...

I survived Christmas!! The last minute wrapping!! The many tons of snow removal!! The miles of travel to see family in horrible weather and road conditions!! The rich foods & drinks! The clean up!! The too much togetherness! Extreme exhaustion! Yes, I made it and it's over for another year!! YIPPEEEE!!!
I wish Christmas could be more simple and less commercialized, AND a lot more like this story.
Thank you, Mike...

deanna said...

Your story says so much; thanks for writing these memories. You could do a book, I'll bet...I'd love to read it. :o)

George said...

This story reminds me of my childhood memories of Christmas on our farm in South Dakota. Mine was a green wool sock hung from a window sill because we didn't have a fireplace, but had a LP gas stove instead. Each sock had at least one, sometimes two tangerines, mixed nuts in the shell, and red & green hard ribbon candy. Like your oranges, this was the one and only time of the year we had tangerines.
Dad hooked a long toboggan to the back of a tractor and us kids piled on it to visit the neighboring farms where we'd get together to go sledding.
This brought back a nice memory. Thanks, Mike...

Hahn at Home said...

I'm glad you had a great day - I hope you keep writing all these stories down, Mike.

Thinkin' of you and the Mrs. and all assorted critters and beasts during this season.

Muhd Imran said...

I love reminiscing especially from my childhood. Yes, simpler times, I yearn for those days all over again which makes that "mental journey back" oh so much soothing.

Have a restful and wonderful Sunday.

Jean said...

Yes, I'm near Portland, but I grew up in central Maine, on a farm, so your Christmas Day story brought back good memories. Ever heard of North Anson??

Midlife Mom said...

Loved your trip down memory lane. Brought back memories of my youth growing up in a little town called Burlington in central Maine. The orange was always in the toe of the stocking for us as well along with some hard candy, a few mixed nuts and some small toys. How we savored each thing! We had such a nice Christmas here this year. Very laidback, I didn't even get all the decorations on the tree but you know what, no one even noticed. I made a decision that this year was going to be stressfree and fun and it was! Happy New Year!

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

I could feel my blue lips and cold cheeks just reading that story. I miss the snow at Christmas time. Thank you for a lovely story.

Happy New Year!

tweetey30 said...

Happy New Year..

Muhd Imran said...

2009 in Singapore.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

That's a lovely touching story Mike and so refreshingly free of the commercialism that has tainted Christmas. Thanks for sharing. Hope you had a lovely one and wishing you good health and happiness for 2009.

Cherie said...

Wonderful read this Happy New Year's Day, Mike.

Thanks for taking the time to write it out - so well.

thewishfulwriter said...

I love your writing. Love it.