Search This Blog

Monday, January 4, 2021

The Importance of Memories by Elizabeth Clements


The Importance of Memories  by Elizabeth Clements

For me, there has never been a year like 2020 that has had me drawing on memories for emotional comfort. So, when I’m feeling blue or lonely, or just plain out of sorts…I put on some cheerful music, make a cup of tea or cocoa and meander through my memories.

Here are some of my favorites pertaining to my favorite time of the year: Christmas. I never did count if I actually wrote 12 days of Christmas memories, but then who is actually counting? However, I’d love to count smiles. <grin>

By surrounding myself with things that make me happy helped me get through my first Christmas without my entire family gathered around the dinner table and by the tree, opening gifts. I played my Christmas play list with a collection of my favorite upbeat Christmas songs—one can even dance to while cooking or decorating the tree or sitting at the computer. Singing along really helps.

This is a funny but precious memory from about twenty years ago that always make us smile when we linger at the Christmas dinner, too full to move and clear the dishes, so we just reminisce. This is a tad long, but there is a punch line <very big grin>

It was a dark and stormy night.....yes, I know, the infamous story beginning....but it was dark and stormy—a blizzard actually. It was a Sunday before Christmas and school was out until after New Year’s. Doug and the three youngest boys had driven to Calgary to move Chris home and ended up stranded in Brooks overnight at the highway restaurant because the roads were closed due to the blizzard.

I passed the time finishing decorating the tree and finally at 2 a.m. with no one home yet, I went to bed. Doug didn't phone because he didn't want to wake me. At 5:15 a.m. I got up as I usually did and got ready to catch the bus to work, serenely unaware of what had happened both on the road and in the living room.

When Doug and all four boys arrived back home, overtired and bleary-eyed, Chris went into the living room to look at the tree. Surprise! It lay on the carpet. (Short little me obviously unbalanced the tree with too many decorations around the front and not enough in the back and the top branches, kinda like it looked when my guys were little and trimmed the tree). The tree  fell without me hearing it because by that time I’d gone to bed).

Chris righted the tree. It immediately began falling again. After the third attempt to keep the tree upright, Chris dug out his handy screwdriver and while Doug held the tree, he screwed the stand to the floor, right through the carpet and muttered, "Now try to fall down, you sonofabitch!" (forgive the language but it's too funny). It had been a very, very long Sunday, packing up his things and driving through the worsening blizzard, then stranded and out of patience. Then Chris must have cleaned up the few broken ornaments and sopped up the water that spilled from the tree holder.

It wasn’t the first time we’d done that, but it was a first for screwing it to the floor. I had visions of that circle of holes and the weight of the tree making the floor so weak the tree would fall into the basement. I think that hook is still on the wall for a rope. <grin>

Since I shared a Christmas tree memory above, I'll tell you about our very first Christmas tree experience as newlyweds. We went to the London Drugs parking lot just a few blocks from our apartment in Calgary and searched through dozens of trees. Luckily it wasn't freezing cold so one could actually see what a tree looked like. I have to admit Doug was very patient as I searched for the perfect tree. I'm sure the one I picked had to have been the bushiest tree on the lot, certainly different from the Charlie Brown type of trees my dad would bring home when I was growing up on the farm.

Doug and I had a one-bedroom apartment with a very long accordion sliding door separating the bedroom from the living room. The corner by the bedroom seemed the best place to set up the tree and what fun decorating it. When we went to bed, we always slid the door shut.

We heard a strange scraping sound like fingernails against a wall and then a thump. Doug went to look and found our tree on the carpet. He righted it while I swept up the broken ornaments because back then the ornaments were breakable, not plastic. Closed the door again. And yup, you guessed it.

The tree fell again. Doug realized it was too close to the sliding door and when he pulled it shut, it bumped the tree again. He moved it but by this time we were too spooked and tired to trust the tree would behave. So, to be on the safe side, Doug found some heavy string and tied the tree to a nail he pounded in the wall. And thus began the tradition of tying the tree to the wall. I don’t recall if the neighbors complained. <grin>

            Our second Christmas was celebrated in Germany where we went to the forest and picked out our tree. I think the attendant cut the tree down as we wouldn't have had a saw or axe and I don't remember Doug sawing it. That was a fun adventure.

It was only about 3 feet tall but very pretty and was set on a table, the usual German tradition. We must have either brought colored lights with us or bought them at the Canex as I’ve never liked white lights.

By the next Christmas, we had moved into an apartment and we strung lights all along the balcony as well as the big picture window. One evening we heard voices. We looked out to see people out on the sidewalk staring and pointing at our apartment. One simply did not see colored lights anywhere, just white lights, so we were a novelty for them.

I still remember the German neighbors who lived across the hall from us. They had a very young girl and boy, close in age, and when they saw our tree, their eyes were round as saucers. When we moved out four years later into a PMQ prior to going home the next summer, we gave them our colored lights.

This is a picture of our first artificial tree. I ordered it from Balsam Hill in 2009 when we had to switch to an artificial tree for physical reasons. After the hectic day of cooking is done, I love to stretch out on the sofa, carols playing on the stereo, gaze at the colored twinkling lights and feel peace seep into my tired body. Nick experimented with camera tricks and called this Tree on Acid.

I have another "first" Christmas memory to share. It was a dark and rainy night.....yes this time, no blizzard, just drizzle, which is what we usually got on Christmas when we lived in Germany. Doug was working, so I probably took a cab over to the Canex to do my Christmas grocery shopping.

With a grocery cart full of paper bags, I wanted to call a taxi, but the direct line for a cab was out of order. So, there I stood on the sidewalk, in the drizzle, wearing my warm Borg pile coat, praying for a cab. I had visions of the damp paper bags splitting open and my cans rolling down the street.

Back in the Dark Ages, there was no handy cell phone to text a cab or a friend for help. Finally, a soldier was able to get cabs for us both and I got my groceries home safely, intact. But I vowed I would never again go big grocery shopping unless I had a vehicle---a resolution I've kept to this day.

Also, that Christmas was my first experience baking a duck for Christmas. Mom always made it on the farm, but she never let me cook meat as it was too precious for a kid to ruin. <grin>

Thus, I never knew how greasy/oily ducks are and loaded with pin feathers. It took me ages to pluck out the pin feathers with a pair of tweezers. And there's not a whole lot of meat on them. Hence, I never made duck again, although I do like roasted duck meat.

            I had roasted my first turkey the year before, in Canada. Mom never made turkey, but in true Canadian fashion, I was making turkey dinner for my husband. Neither of us had cooked a turkey before, so I checked my home economics text I still had from school and faithfully followed the instructions to baste the turkey every 20 minutes. That li’l fell took a long time to bake because of course the oven lost a lot of heat while I/we basted and then had to reach the 350 degrees again. Probably by the time it did, it was time to baste again. Repeat. I wonder what time we eventually ate?

            It isn’t only children who can’t wait for Christmas to come. I think I was 16 or 17 one Christmas when I was sick in bed with a rare sore throat and a cold. The house was quiet when suddenly my dad bellowed, “What are you doing?” I heard my mother scream. He had caught her on her hands and knees searching through the presents under the tree. My dad had given me money to buy a gift for her from him and I had wrapped and hidden it well under the tree. If she found her gift she’d open it. Thereafter hers were kept hidden until Christmas Eve. I had my brother send his to me for safekeeping, as well. Gifts from her friends were all opened immediately. If it hadn’t been for me, she’d never have had anything to open on Christmas Eve.

            My boys tried to see what was in their presents. I’d find little tears at the corners. For years I double-wrapped everything first in newspaper, then wrap, and I used lots of that heavy-duty parcel tape. The Christmas wrap was too easily see-through, but newspaper, ah, yes, that worked very well. We laugh about that now. I think Chris will be doing that now, too, with his curious son.

To continue with my tales of Christmas past, there is one that still makes me laugh quietly to myself when I think of it, but it wasn’t funny at the time. For years we had Christmas at my parents until the twins were born. Their first Christmas going to my parents was a circus. Literally. Packing clothes, diapers, diaper pails and all the presents into the car and driving the hour to my hometown was such a hassle that I suggested it was easier for them to pack an overnight bag and come to our place.

We did that for a lot of years until one year my mom didn't want that drive anymore, even though Doug always went to get her and take her home so she wouldn't have to take the bus. Then it was packing up the van again with clothes (but no diaper pails anymore) <grin> and all the presents, plus a cooked turkey dinner with all the trimmings, which Doug and the boys put in the van and kept warm with sleeping bags tucked around the boxes. The gravy had to be reheated and probably the veggies, too.

So, the next Christmas I wasn't repeating that hassle again, and suggested we have KFC take-out at my mom's. I even phoned the outlet to check how late they were open. 7 p.m. they assured me. We got to KFC at 6:30ish. The door was locked! Yet we could see the employees at the counter, staring at us and not budging. I think I felt the heat fuming out of Doug's ears.

            We drove to our favorite Chinese restaurant. Closed. We drove to Safeway. Closed. IGA was also closed. Desperate now, I said, "Let's try McDonalds." Open. Whew! We were the last customers as they locked the door behind us at exactly 7p.m. I think all six of us went inside to order and help carry out the food. I ordered seven Big Mac dinners and extra fries and pop.        My mom had set the table with her beautiful Forget-me-not china.

I placed the Big Macs and fries on every plate.

My mother was not amused.

My husband was not amused.

He had looked forward to KFC all day.

Myself and the boys thought it was hilarious (even though I confess I never eat McDonalds burgers…but I used to like their McNuggets).

            The next Christmas I had a quiet chat with my mother and read her the riot act. We would again start having Christmas at my place. She made a comment about liking to sleep in her own bed. I looked her in the eye and gently but firmly said, "If you can go to Yuma with your cousin and his wife for ten days and sleep in an unfamiliar bed, then you can definitely sleep a night or two in a familiar bed at our place."

            Speechless, her eyes got big as marbles. Y'see, I had never stood up to her like that.

And thus Mom spent three nights away from her very comfortable bed. <grin>     

And Doug drove an hour to get her and then take her back home.

Ahhh, gotta love those fun memories of Christmas past.

A fun memory from 1995 still has me smiling because it involves Dolly Parton and Christmas morning. When she published her biography, our local Coles Bookstore had a life-size cardboard display of her in the store. I've always been a fan, so I had the audacity to ask the store manager if I could have that display when the promotion was over. The manager agreed, possibly because I bought the book as well as being a frequent customer.

Shortly before Christmas, Coles phoned and I picked up Dolly. I got Chris to sneak Dolly  downstairs and he hid her in his closet for me until Christmas Day morning. Then while Doug was having a shower, I had Chris bring her up and put her in the master bedroom bathroom. He left the light on and closed the door. I hovered out of sight while I waited for Doug to go in there.  

Doug opened the door, saw a woman standing there, blurted "Excuse, me" and slammed the door, thinking it was me (I wish I could look that good). Then it hit him. Uh...he kinda used the Lord's name in vain and something to the effect of why is Dolly Parton in our bathroom?

Oh, did the boys and I roar. The five-foot cut-out is life-size, including her usual four inch heels, so her face would have been close to chin-high on Doug. I still have Dolly somewhere in a closet.

I've always reserved one special gift for Doug to open on Christmas morning since my side of the family always opened ours on Christmas Eve and his the next morning.      One year back in the mid-80s when I was still a stay-at-home mom, I shoveled our very long driveway so Doug wouldn't have to do it when he came home from work. I ended up with bronchitis from breathing in all that cold air and vowed I'd never shovel snow again. (I have but only to clear a path on our back deck.)

The next Christmas I bought a snow blower and arranged with our good neighbor, Duane, to store it in his garage and bring it to our back door on Christmas morning, which he did.

Well, what a job to get Doug to go outside. Finally, he took the garbage out, opened the back door and nearly fell over the dang thing blocking the doorway. Lordy, we laughed and Doug grinned all over his face. That was a great surprise...and I must have jinxed old man winter because we had a brown winter for several years after that and he didn’t need to use the snowblower.

            Christmas fun isn’t reserved just for children. All these years later I still remember my fourth Christmas. All the family gathered at my great-aunt’s place for Christmas Eve. The last gift to be opened was for my great-uncle, a big, long intriguing package about the size of a vacuum cleaner box and it had a big bow. He unwrapped it only to find another present inside, wrapped and with a bow. Uh, I think everyone’s familiar with those wooden Russian cluster dolls that fit inside each other? Well, by the time he unwrapped the last layer, it was a slim, tiny box that held...a ball point pen. He was a very good sport.

This fun prank was repeated on myself a few times when I was growing up, and I’ve also done it to Doug and my boys. Nick was the most recent victim….a Tim Horton’s gift card hidden inside layers of boxes, gift  wrap and garlands. Nick, too, is such a good sport.

My last memory to share is actually a New Year’s memory. The recent first Saturday of the new year reminds me that I met my future husband on the first Saturday of January, 1964. Thanks to a search on Google, I now know that the day was January 4th and that’s today.

Just one of those Karma moments, I guess. I had just come back to Calgary after New Year’s at home, when I answered the phone on the third floor landing of the YWCA where I lived at the time. I went in search of Christine. I couldn't find her so the charming voice on the other end of the phone began flirting with me, and thus began a very enjoyable and fun-filled year and...we've been happily-ever-after ever since.

Happy New Year everyone and I hope I made you smile or chuckle as I shared some of my favorite Christmas memories over the years.

I hope you’ll take a moment and share with me a favorite Christmas memory of yours.


Flashback Excerpt from Beneath A Horse Thief Moon 

On Christmas Eve the cabin glowed with candlelight and the dancing flames in the hearth. The fresh resin fragrance of the fir tree hung heavy in the air. Chase hurriedly lit the dozens of candles he'd fastened to the fir boughs. “Sara? You ready to come out now? It's lonely out here without you.”

“I'm coming,” she replied, her voice muffled.

In two strides he was at the bedroom door. From behind his back, he produced a tissue-wrapped parcel tied with a green ribbon and dropped it into her lap.

“I couldn't wait any longer. Merry Christmas, Sara.”

She gazed at him, her mouth a perfect circle of surprise. “A present? For me?” she said in a hushed voice. “I've never had a Christmas present.”

He gaped, the idea incomprehensible to him. “Not even a doll?”

She shook her head.

He ached for what she'd missed. “Next Christmas I'll buy you a dozen dolls.” He watched her untie the ribbon and fold back the tissue. Emerald satin shimmered in the candlelight. “Oh, my,” she breathed. A big, fat tear rolled down her cheek. “Oh, my.”

“Hey, you're not supposed to cry. I'll take it back.” He reached to take the parcel.

She grabbed it back. “It's the most beautiful gown I've ever seen. But it's far too fine for the likes of me.”

Chase heaved a sigh of relief that she liked his gift. “No, it's you wearing it that makes it look fine.”

Sara cupped his face and kissed him. “You are the sweetest, most generous person I know. What did I ever do to deserve you?”



Beneath A Horse Thief Moon:

Link for Diamond Jack’s Angel/Hot Western Nights Anthology


  1. Memories do sustain us, if we use them wisely. Thanks for sharing some of yours. I laughed out loud at the Dolly Parton story. I love your beautiful tree. I'm keeping mine up until spring this year, as I feel the need to hold onto the lights through the dullest months. Happy New Year.

    1. I'm glad you're keeping your tree up until spring. I highly recommend it. One year I was so despondent about taking down our exception pine that I wrote a poem. By the time I finished the poem, I had worked through my feelings. We have an artificial tree now since 2009 and I never tire looking at it. I wish you a wonderful 2021. Thanks for stopping by and always being so supportive.

  2. You certainly have some memorable Christmases...especially those with gravity problems. Your mom was like an eager kid wanting to rip open all the presents immediately. LOL I think that's the only time I've heard of a parent unable to wait until Christmas to get to those presents. LOL

    I have to appreciate my parents for providing my sister and me with wonderful memories, not just Christmas memories, but memories all year round. Like you, my memories see me through some pretty rough times and help me find the strength to get through. 2020 certainly was the Grinch of all the years in my lifetime...stink...stank...stunk!

    I hope this year proves to be like the beginning of a new Renaissance. All the very best to you!

    1. I'm so glad you have lots of Christmas memories as well as others to make you smile. I posted a video of twins that reminds me of my two years ago, and that prompted me to write about that particular memory. It wasn't funny at the time....took me two hours to hand=scrub the carpet of the drippings of home-made chokecherry syrup that Danny got into. He had a sweet tooth. Meanwhile, Robby had fun dropping a dozen eggs on the floor. I used to move the dishwasher in front of the fridge when I knew I'd be busy with the baby. They figured out the power of two can move mountains...or at least a dishwasher. Memories are fun to look back on, but 2020 certainly doesn't leave any fond memories. I wish you all the best, too, Sarah, and let's make 2021 great.

  3. It is the memories that sustain us when life offers challenges. Thank you for sharing your memories. Doris

    1. Thank you for your kind words. There's been so much doom and gloom this past year that I just wanted to lighten things up a bit and what better way than with fun memories. Thanks for always stopping by.

  4. Poignant and lovely Christmas memories, Elizabeth. I can picture the toppled tree and love your fancy "Tree on Acid."
    When I was at Uni everyone was rather low at the house I live in, so I bought a small Xmas tree and then hitch-hiked with it back to our house. Everyone had fun decorating the tree.
    Happy 2021!

    1. I love reading memories, especially if they're happy or fun, and yours definitely fits both. Good for you bringing a tree to be decorated. Your mention of hitch-hike reminds me of one Christmas shopping trip in Germany. I found a picture of horses that I was going to give to Doug (although I think it was probably more for me than him, me being a horse lover). It cost a little more than I planned, actually took the last of my cash so I couldn't even afford a taxi. I could barely hold onto the portrait with the tips of my fingers, so it was a long, slow and uncomfortable trek home from downtown. But we still have the picture hanging in the den. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your Christmas memory. I wish you a much better 2021.