A Few Christmas Memories from a Jewish Grandmother

Abby peeking

 The earliest memory I have of Christmas was when Santa came into our living room, unannounced, and handed out cookies to my sister and I. We were so young at the time that my brother wasn’t even born yet! We found out later it was our elderly (she was assuredly younger than me at the time) next door neighbor Mrs. Dubs. We should’ve been tipped off by the hermit cookies she was famous for. But at ages 2 and 4 we were too ready and willing to believe it was really Santa. And I must admit, just a teensy bit scared of this bouncy red clad intruder.

A couple of years later – a bigger deeper voiced Santa appeared – very jolly and carrying lots of gifts. I remember not being quite sure of the situation – my little sister wasn’t either – but we were delighted nevertheless. It wasn’t until much later that we learned it was our daddy himself!

It was around that time, maybe a couple of years later that our mom would take us downtown and we’d visit Santa himself at Smith’s Department store. We’d then visit the perennial Christmas exhibit set up on the walkway between Smith’s and Bartlett’s (the snooty store). It was one of those you used to see with miniature mice sitting around playing cards and yet more mice jamming away on their musical instruments with appropriate Christmas music playing in the background.

We LOVED it and couldn’t wait to go see it each year.

 But it wasn’t long before that display was overshadowed by the one across the river. We’d all get on the bus at the Tunnel in downtown Windsor for the short drive across to the states. Once on the other side we’d trek on over to Hudson’s and join the throngs already assembled to ooh and aah at the window displays there. To this day I haven’t seen anything to quite match the magic and fascination of those Christmas scenes. There’d be anything and everything from solemn nativities to Santa’s elves at work to children singing around a beautiful twinkling tree.

 And I am so glad that my elementary school years were well before the years of rigid political correctness.   We had a Christmas pageant every year and for many of those years I got to sing in the choir. And I enjoyed every moment of it. As a little girl from a Jewish home who was simultaneously learning Torah and Hebrew, it didn’t bother me one bit that we were singing Odes to the birth of Christ. To me it was a time of fellowship and joy and I belted out those carols with gusto!

 And so I wish to all of you – whatever your personal beliefs may be – enjoy this time of year for the sheer joy of it. If your personal beliefs differ then take the opportunity to focus on the good in people. I believe that is always essential and especially when day after day we are reminded of the worst.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a very Happy 2015 to all!

The Most Exciting Day of the Year – reposted from 2012 with Photos

 

A Windsor Parade Staple

A Windsor Parade Staple  1965                     Photo courtesy of Anne Walsh

I’d have a tough time getting to sleep the night before but when morning came I was wide awake and giddy with anticipation. Labour Day !!! It was always a big day in Windsor, Ontario where I grew up – what with Windsor being the automotive capitol of Canada. The unions were strong and what they did always had rippling repercussions throughout the city.

On this day there was always a huge parade down Ouellette Avenue to start things off in the morning. Brass bands, one after the other, and marchers – Labour’s finest – proclaiming proudly their local’s credentials. Even my Dad took part on occasion – being an active member of the American Federation of Musicians local 566 – established in 1911.

So we’d all get up, get dressed – forget about breakfast for me – I had far too many butterflies to swallow a thing! Then we’d walk a few blocks to the big intersection of Giles and Ouellette – where the Cenotaph proudly stood, find a prime viewing spot and eagerly wait for flag bearers to appear. If we kids needed a better view we took turns on our Dad’s shoulders. At 6 foot 5 he had a perfect vantage point.

10582842_10154520882905321_5064934224375776982_o

Marching Bands Galore    1965                                       Photo Courtesy of Anne Walsh

10560346_10154520848075321_5018904069760189523_o

1965 Labor Day Parade, Windsor                                      Photo Courtesy of Anne Walsh

10514170_10154520848835321_2388967301390403755_o

Vintage Cars  1965                                                                          Photo Courtesy of Anne Walsh

1965 Labor Day Parade, Windsor

1965 Labor Day Parade, Windsor                          Photo Courtesy of Anne Walsh

The parade was fun but that was not the main attraction for me on Labour day…the best was yet to come. Fireman’s Field Day and Carnival!

Immediately after the sounds of the last band faded we quickly headed home, got in our Oldsmobile and drove to Jackson Park. The Carnival – oh I must have sawdust in my veins – how I loved that Carnival. From Labour Day and for the week after – the carnival held me in its thrall. The crowds milling about – who would be there? Chances were we’d run into a bunch of people that we knew. The sounds of the rides, the shrill calls of the guys who wanted to sell you 3 tosses at the bowling pins, the sing song of the vendor with his awesome display of pink cotton candy – all beckoned.

The rides. It was a love/hate relationship – especially with the Ferris Wheel. It held a fascination for me and I loved being at the top and seeing all the way across town. But, you see, in those days I also had a bit of a fear of heights so there was always an edge of danger lurking.

The Carnival always came through and delivered on its promise of fun and excitement. Later I found out that the reason we called it Firemen’s Field Day is that it was sponsored by Windsor Firefighters.

Okay, so far we have a parade, a carnival, wonderful family day – but that’s not all that made this day so special my friends. This was the official last day of summer – next day – school! Now, bear with me. I know that for a lot of you that wasn’t exactly what you wanted to be looking forward to the next day but I was one of the kids who loved school. New pencils sharpened and ready – just could hardly wait to start the new school year.

So Happy Labour Day (or Labor Day) my dear friends and readers. I hope you have even a fraction of the fun that I remember on Labour Day and make some of your own memories. And whether you start school tomorrow or return to work and embark on some entirely new adventure I hope it will energize and delight you.

Photos provided courtesy of Anne Walsh of Windsor Ontario.  They were taken in 1965 by Anne’s husband and his father.  Thank you Anne!