CHRISTMAS AS CHILD IN NORTH FORT WORTH
Christmas as a child, living in North Fort Worth by the stockyards, was one of excitement and anticipation. Though there were a few good memories, as a child, I was too young to know much of what was really going on. There was always fighting, daddy taking off and it was a tradition that sometime between Christmas and New Years he would end up in jail for some drinking offence. Many times we would be dragged hand in tow to look for him on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to the many bars along Main Street. We just prayed that somehow it would be after Christmas Day, which most of the time it would be. Being a long distance telephone operator, Mommy worked every Christmas Day - this was a known fact. Daddy, if home, would take us girls and pick up Auntie and we would head to Weatherford to Grandma Jobes. Daddy was the youngest of 9 children with a sister and brother who already had children as old as my mother. So at Grandmas it was always a surprise at who would show up. And remember Daddy would forever be 'Little Earl' to them, the baby who was 2 months old when his father died in the flu epidemic of 1919.
One of the things that I looked forward to every Christmas was visiting Santa at the huge toyland at Leonard's Department store in downtown Fort Worth, Every year it would be changed a bit. One year there were rotating dolls around the walls and another year a big train encircling it.
Me at Leonards Toyland
One year, must have been 6 or 7, and it was Christmas Eve and a beautiful day with the sun shining. We had gone out for a walk and over to Wilsons to get some ice cream. Daddy had returned home and then Mommy decided we needed to go home and get a sweater before venturing on. When I walked in the house, the front room was like a toyland as all the presents were under the tree, not wrapped and put together, I thought the toyland had been brought home. I distinctly remember a little pink toy washing machine and a big baby doll.
When I was 7 or 8, was the year that Mommy forgot where she 'hid the presents' and asked me to get something out of the bureau. When I opened it, I was in total awe of the sight - Christmas presents filled to the top. This was also one of the years that Daddy got 'caught' before Christmas Eve, so really didn't think we would have much of a Christmas. Know this was the last year that I believed in Santa Claus.
When I was 10 or 11, when Daddy was 'away', and things were really tough, I'll never forget Uncle Earl, my mother's brother, coming and taking us to Buddies (now Winn Dixie) to buy us a Christmas Tree. Believe he paid $3.00 for that tree, but is one I'll remember always.
CHRISTMAS - 1963-1971
Christmas 1963 would be my first Christmas after our move to Grand Prairie from Fort Worth. We were living in an apartment only a block from Granny's. Daddy was in the Veteran's hospital and had been for some time. His years of abuse to his body had finally caught up with him. Mommy was still working at the telephone office in Fort Worth so would take the Texas Motor Coach which ran between Fort Worth and Dallas on old Highway 80 to go to work every day. Actually during this time we saw very little of her. My life cantered around my grandmother as we had spent 3 months with her in the summer. Before Daddy went into the hospital, my parents had separated again - I really did not know if they would get back together or not. Do remember that Christmas that I received a package in mail and it was from Daddy. He had sent my sister and I some things for Christmas that he had made at the hospital.
Spring 1964, he got out of the hospital and they managed to get back together and bought a house about 2 miles from my grandmother on the opposite side of Grand Prairie. But it was still close enough that we could walk to Granny's or ride our bikes. The next 2 years, we attended church, even baptized as a family, and family life actually improved. Daddy stopped drinking during this time and even maintained a job for more than a couple of months.
But it was very short-lived. Christmas 1967, we found out that my sister, barely 15, was pregnant. A rapid marriage followed with a miscarriage the next month, then pregnant again the month after and just before Christmas 1968, she lost a baby that we had to bury. Also Daddy had resumed his drinking and Mommy had to take a disability pension from the telephone company. This time the drinking only lasted about a year and I did have about 2 1/2 years with him, which I truly did get to enjoy, even though his health was detoriating rapidly. During this time, we did a lot of travelling and I was into genealogy full-time.
Christmas 1968 in Grand Prairie, Texas
Top left: Marian, Me, Jimmy Wells (Marian's husband), Mommy, Daddy
Top right: Auntie (Daddy's sister) and Lois (Auntie's daughter)
Bottom left: Marian and I opening the scarves that Auntie had made us
Bottom right: Mommy holding the clock that I had bought her
One of my best Christmas memories during this time was as a teenager, getting in the car and going to see all the Christmas lights in Arlington. There was one area that would really be lit of every year. Until I started looking at all the pictures, I had forgotten how I used to decorate the house with tinsel and put up all the Christmas cards on the walls between 1968 and 1971. Since I was doing a lot of writing to various cousins during this time, I would get quite a few cards.
In the pictures below, I had just turned 18 and was in grade 12. My sister had just turned 17, and she had been married for a year and a half and had already lost two children.
Christmas 1969 in Grand Prairie, Texas
I also remember 1970 when I finally talked Daddy into allowing us to get a white-flocked Christmas tree. In Texas, I was always dreaming of snow on Christmas and as most Texans know, this rarely happened. And to think that today, I actually get tired of seeing all of this snow and couldn't care less if we have snow or not on Christmas Day.
Christmas 1970 in Grand Prairie, Texas
Right: 3 Generations, Me, Granny, Mommy
Middle: Daddy, Mommy, Me, Marian
Left: Jimmy and Marian, Mommy, Granny, Lois, Me, Auntie on floor
Auntie and Lois would come over (usually the Sunday before Christmas Day) when we would have our Christmas. Daddy did the cooking and we would have 2 big chickens in roast pan with lots of stuffing, and it had lots of sage and poultry seasoning. One time though, he decided to roast a duck and that was really greasy. And I would make the fruit salad - bananas, apples, oranges, and then started adding coconut and maraschino cherries. I Would also make home-made Coconut and chocolate pie and brownies. Boy was it good! I was taking homemaking in grade 10 and 11th so loved to cook and sew at this time.
Christmas 1971 would be the last Christmas that I would live at home. It was also the time that I decided that somehow I was going to leave this area! I'll never forget that New Years Day, but it changed my life. My sister had just went into the hospital, with schizophrenia, so she was not with us. She had really gotten mixed up with some 'wrong people'. It was New Years Day that I found out that all was not as it seemed. She and my boy friend had lied to me constantly. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This one Christmas and New Years led to me coming to Canada!
Christmas 1971 in Grand Prairie, Texas
Last Christmas I lived at Home
This was also the last year that Grandma Jobe would be with us. This Christmas, she was 96 years old and she would live 7 more months. In the picture, below, she and Aunt Annie were sitting on the swing which they had on their front porch. I spent many of a time rocking in that swing with Grandma and watching her spit out her snuff into a can.
I had made the blue dress that I'm wearing in the picture below.
Right: Mommy, Daddy and Me
Middle: Daddy with my cat, Fudge
Left: Grandma Jobe with Aunt Annie (Jobe) Spoon
CHRISTMAS - 1972-1976
I had married in August 1972 and moved to Canada. Clarence worked for Fisher Construction and every Christmas he would get laid off until spring.
Christmas 1972 - Visiting in Texas
Right: Daddy and Marian playing Chinese Checkers
Middle: Marian and Me
Left: Mommy, Daddy, Marian and Me
Now a landed immigrant, we got in the car and headed to Texas, arriving Christmas Eve in the middle of an ice storm. Hadn't been in the house more than an hour when the phone rang. My sister and her husband were having a real fight. So we all jumped in our car and headed to Sherman. The Texans just assumed that we knew had to drive in this weather. I was the only one who actually had winter boots (never had them before) and it did seem strange to be in Texas and actually wearing them on Christmas Eve. For once I was prepared, even had on a real winter coat and toque. Believe them just seeing us (as they were not at our wedding in August), sort of calmed them down. Though I didn't know, this would be our last Christmas together.
Christmas 1973, again the layoff, and I was pregnant, due February 10th, so we headed for New Brunswick, about 20 hours of straight driving. This was before the bypass was built around Montreal. This was a totally different Christmas than I've ever seen. We went to a midnight mass - total French. I knew no French at all and still don't. My in-laws were poor, always thought we were poor, but not compared to them. Of the original 22 children in his family, only 2 were still at home. My mother-in-law knew no English and she was liberate. My father-in-law knew only broken English and he was confined to a wheel chair. About the only thing I remember him saying is 'Eat,, Eat". So since I had no one to talk to, nothing to read in English, no shows to watch in English, I just 'Ate,, Ate'.
After Christmas, I had convinced Clarence that we couldn't go on with getting laid off 3 months every year.. During this time, he applied everyday at the mines and was hired at the smelter the first week of January, just days before Chantale was born. She arrived three weeks early, weighing only 4 pounds 12 ounces. On February 6th, at 3 weeks she came home. the day she came home. A few hours later, Mommy and Daddy surprised us a visit and Daddy said for once he had seen enough snow. They also brought my typewriter and for about two years, I resumed my genealogy.
Christmas in 1974, 1975 and 1976, centered around my young daughter and I loved 'playing Santa'.
1974 - Christmas in Canada with a Young Daughter
1975 - Christmas in Canada with a Young Daughter
Christmas 1976, I bought Chantale a Baby Love You Walk Doll. She really loved that doll and it had blond hair just like her. It was as tall as she was and you would squeeze her hands and the doll's legs would move. Visiting Texas in the spring, she took this doll with her. For many years to come, there would be no more smiling at Christmas.
1976 - Christmas in Canada with a Young Daughter
On November 30, 1977, I got a phone call around 8 that would change my life. My sister had been shot. An hour and a half later, the phone rang again, Marian was dead and her husband (2nd one and he is now deceased himself) was facing a charge of murder, later acquited due to lack of evidence.
1977 - Unplanned Christmas in Texas
On December 2nd, using all our savings, Chantale and I got on a plane for Texas. Know Daddy bought my daughter a play doctor's kit that year and Granny came over from the nursing home, 3 blocks away. Returning to Canada on December 23rd was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I had already changed the return flight once and Clarence had already went once to Toronto to pick us up and we didn't arrive. To save money, I had decided to take the train, my 1st and last trip, on to Sudbury from Toronto. Today (2004), it takes just under 4 hours, but this was Christmas 1977. We had had a snow storm and it took us over 8 hours. Arriving in Sudbury, near the tracks, I saw the biggest Christmas tree, all lit up. For years I used to try and find that tree, finally locating it about 3 years later, Like the years before, I had done my Christmas shopping for Chantale in September. However, nothing could take the place of the doll she had gotton the year earlier. But then I got the shock of my life as my daughter later named that doll , Auntie Marian, and for the next several months, she and that doll would relive the April before and that awful December. Christmas 1978 just brought back memories of the year before and just before Christmas 1979, I had a miscarriage on the same day that I had heard that Marian had died 2 years earlier. . This was to 'haunt' me for years to come.
Chantale - Christmas 1978
Then in early January 1980, Auntie, who you heard so much about in my earlier letters was involved in a car accident and after several days in a coma she died. Then early the next January 1981, my father died and 2 months later Granny, my mother's mother died. I did make Daddy's funeral, but it took every cent that we had. Plus I was 4 1/2 months pregnant. Also during this time Clarence was off work for over 2 years as there was a real mining slump in this area. The other mining company had been on strike for 9 months and then they also had a month's layoff. It was the entire town that was being affected. ecember and January from 1977 to about 1985 became a time that I didn't want to come and one that I despised. I became a 'hermit' and I have to admit now became a person that no one would want to live with.
My son would be born in mid 1981, and he was a real handful, but he kept me going.
Christmas - 1981, 1982, 1983
Pictures below - My children and me during these Years
Know that there was one year that everyone wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll and Chantale was no different. I just didn't know how I was going to get one as there were shortages and they would disappear as soon as they hit the shelves. Then I heard of a large shipment coming in, but would be first come first serve, so I waited in a long line before the store opened and it was COLD - remember this is Canada! The things we will do for our children, but it got my out of the house.
Christmas 1984 was just one of just 'being there'. In October, we had seperated for abit, but had managed to just get back together before Christmas. Christmas Day that year, we set record lows - getting close to minus 40 and I'm not an outdoors person to begin with, especially in the winter. My husband's brother came up from Toronto that year on the bus and after being here for only 3-4 hours, he said Sudbury was too cold, and got on the bus back home. Had decided that 1985 was going to be different, no matter what it took. I was finally going to do something for myself. Enough of this shambles, even though I had lost a baby, Daddy, Marian, Granny and Auntie were now gone, all dying within 3 weeks of a Christmas, I was still alive. By spring, I was back in school, getting counseling, losing weight, and fixing myself up. September came, and we both went our own way.
When Christmas came in 1985, I was a single mother with 2 children, age 4 and 11. At this time, I had gone back to school and was taking a commercial refresher course at a local technical college, which was about half a mile from where I lived at the time. I really didn't know what I was going to do for the children as my life was changing so rapidly. I had been separated for 3 months and even my ex had recently lost his own mother and was in New Brunswick. Catholic Charities brought us over this huge food basket filled with some small toys, but it also had a $100 check in it. Also, we had joined the Foresters before the separation, and they picked the children and me up and took us to this Christmas party and again the children got small gifts. But our neighbours and friends across the street came over with a whole box full of presents - that were totally unexpected. In it was the present that my 4 year had wished for - a stuffed dog called Wrinkles. This dog went with him just about everywhere for over a year. I also received this package in the mail from my mother filled with gifts for the children and even a coat for myself. This was a 'poor Christmas' but a very blessed one under the circumstances.
Christmas 1986 - Allan and Me
1st Christmas Together
Taken at his parents
The next Christmas would be a totally different one. I had met my present-husband 2 months prior. Allan pretended to be Santa Claus for Philip who was now 5 1/2. Then Christmas Day was a real 'family affair' as he picked us all up and took us to his parents for Christmas Day. It was my first real family Christmas that I had in years and one of the best that I can remember. On the way back, we were all singing Christmas carols in the car.
CHRISTMAS - 1992-1998
During the mid 1990's, my husband finally had enough senority to take his vacation at Christmas and we would go and spend it with my mother and step father. Daddy had died in January 1981, and my mother had remarried in 1982 a wonderful man, Claude Dodd. She had moved from Grand Prairie and was living in east Fort Worth, in what used to be Handley. My daughter had married in 1994 and she would spend Christmas at his parents. The first couple of years my mother would make all the fixings. Later on the main course would be ordered from Winn Dixie, which was only a block away. Every Christmas eve, we would go to Brams for those delicious hamburgers.
It was Christmas in 1992 that we realized that these 'good times' were coming to a quick end. It was at this time that we realized that my stepfather would soon have to be committed to a nursing home. He was 12 years older than my mother and had Parkinson's. His health was failing rapidly. This Christmas Eve, for the 3rd time in one week, we were sitting in an emergency room waiting for him to get stitches, having fallen again. We got him a walker but he refused to use it or even a cane.
The next year, Christmas 1993, my mother was still living in Ft Worth at Claude's house, but Claude had been placed in a nursing home the previous summer. At least the nursing home was close by. On Christmas Day, we ordered from Winn Dixie again and made the trimmings at home. My husband drove to Weatherford and picked up Aunt Annie, Daddy's widowed sister who lived alone. and had no children. Auntie's daughter, Lois, who had lived with her was now in a nursing home herself. Allan couldn't stand her being by herself. The next year, Aunt Annie would be in a nursing home herself. Mommy had bought Claude 2 nice outfits for Christmas. When we took them to the nursing home to give to Claud, he didn't know us or even Mommy. It was such an awful feeling that day. However, the next day, we returned to the nursing home to visit and Claud was sitting in a wheelchair in the hall and was all dressed in one of his new outfits. When we came in, he immediately started waving, smiling and laughing and knew all of us. What a change from the day before. However, that night the phone rang and this wonderful man had died. So on December 29th, we had his funeral and then on December 31st, New Year's Eve, we quickly moved my mother from Claude's house in Ft Worth to the old house where I had grew up from 1963-1970. That was some week between Christmas and New Years.
The next few Christmases, 1994-1997, would be spent in Grand Prairie, Texas, in the house where I had spent my teen years. I had started back doing genealogy and between Christmas 1997 and New Years 1998, I got my first computer. It was a librarian in Arlington who actually convinced me that I didn't have to the live in the states to work on the hobby which I loved.
In mid January 1998, Allan would have to go in the hospital and would spend 3 weeks in the hospital and eventually have bypass surgery, an aorta valve replaced and an anurysm removed. For the next while, Christmas would be spent at home.
Today, our Christmas season starts with the Christmas Banquet at church, which is always the first weekend in December. There is always good fellowship, a skit, and great singing. Then the first Sunday night in December there is the Sunday School Christmas play. Since we taught Sunday school, ages 8-9, for over 10 years, this is a real thrill. Then sometime in mid December, we go to see the cantata, a musical play put on at church every year. Now many of our former Sunday School Students are performing the lead parts.
Christmas 2000 Sometime, after this, we pray that Philip, who is in the military (he joined September 11, 2001), will be able to make it home safe from wherever he is coming from. This is now his 4th Christmas in the military and we've been blessed to have him home every year. We do know that the time is coming and it could very well be next Christmas when we're sure he will be in Afghanistan or some other place far away. The first Christmas he was in the military, he was in the middle of basic training, but a last-minute decision allowed him to take a 10 hour bus ride from Montreal to come home for a week.
Christmas 2001 The second year (2002) was a bit tricky as he was in Shiloh, Manitoba waiting his artillery course. As anyone knows the weather on the prairies in Canada can be rough this time of year. First of all he had to take a 2 1/2 bus ride to Winnipeg to the nearest airport. At this time, it had been 8 1/2 months since we had seen him as his way home would only be paid once a year. He did manage to get his plane booked and made it to the airport in Winnipeg on time. However, here is Sudbury, that year we were having a winter storm, but we did manage to make it to the airport here - which is normally about 30-35 minutes from here but that day took us an hour. Well here we were in that airport with many other parents waiting for their children to come home for the holiday. Soon a message came over the PA, saying that they were sorry to report that the weather prevented the plane from landing and it had circled the airport but flew on to Hamilton, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. So we got back in the car and headed home to wait. We weren't even home 15 minutes when the phone rang. Philip said, "Guess where I am". We both shouted, Hamilton at the same time. We told him to try and catch a bus and we would give him the money for the bus when he got here. About an hour later the phone rang again and it was Philip. Was expecting him to say that he had managed to get to Toronto and was waiting for the greyhound to bring him to Sudbury, but didn't know when the next one would be. What a shock it was when he said, "Mom, I'm at the airport." I said, "You're still in Hamilton, can't get out?". He said, "No, I'm back in Sudbury, please come and pick me up!" The plane that he had arrived on was on its way back to Winnipeg and it had said to any who 'wanted to take a chance', that they believed that they would be able to land in Sudbury this time, BUT if the weather was too bad, then they would be stuck back in Winnipeg where they started and their money would not be returned. Well my adventuresome son took the gamble and it paid off. His guardian angels were watching after him that day.
Christmas 2002 And like most parents with grown children who have left the nest, our Christmases now revolve around the grandchildren. Even my children's father, his wife and their son, who is almost 16, and her children all have Christmas with us. It is 'strange' to some, but the differences are behind us, we all have our own lives now, and most of all we share two beautiful grandsons. That is what Christmas is really about.
Christmas 2003 When my husband asked Evan, our grandson who will soon be 5, what Christmas was about, we got the answer you would expect, "Grandpa, Toys of course." So Allan started to tell him about it being Jesus birthday. Evan quickly interrupted and said, "Mommy and I last night was putting the figures under the tree and I got to put in Baby Jesus. And Chad, our 2 year old, well he doesn't know fully what to think about things yet, but knows the man with the white beard and dressed in red at the mall gives away candy canes and 'that huge decorated tree' is taking up part of his play room in the living room but presents keep magically appearing under it that he would like to open. (and he has opened a few before Chantale could catch him)
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