By Mary Tucker

Thinking about Christmas, coming all too soon, I recall two of my favorite memories. The first is the Christmas program presented at the one room elementary school I attended. Everyone from grade 1 to grade 5 was expected to take part. I don’t remember what grade I was in, but do remember being very shy about performing before an audience of parents and neighbors.

Our teacher, Miss Bogus – yes, that was her name, had us practice until everyone had their lines memorized. On the evening we put on the play, all was going fine until it came to my turn to speak. I couldn’t remember my lines. Fortunately, one of the other students came to the rescue, took over my lines and the play continued with just a short pause. Did the audience notice what had happened? I don’t know, possibly, but being parents they clapped as loudly as if the scene was planned.

The other favorite memory starts on Christmas Eve. We lived on a farm across the road from my uncle’s farm. After milking and chores were done, both families gathered together for a long drawn-out dinner of fried smelts and pasta with toasted bread crumbs and ricotta-filled tarts. There were 19 at the table. At eleven o’clock everyone piled in cars in order to arrive at the church early and get a seat for the Midnight Christmas Service. On the way home, we stopped at neighbors’ homes to sample their Christmas goodies, to visit and catch up on the latest doings. Then everyone came to my house, where my mother served her special cookies, coffee, cocoa, milk and “vino” for the adults. Soon it was time for the morning milking. The men and older boys went to their respective farms to take care of the cows and the younger kids went along to help with chores, while my mother, my aunt and the older girls worked in our kitchen preparing a typical Italian Christmas dinner: ensalada, pasta, roast chicken, cakes and pies. This kind of dinner requires a short nap to help the digestion, except for the youngsters who went outdoors to play in the snow. We always had snow for Christmas in those days. Presents were opened in late afternoon, “oohed” and “aahed” over, clothes tried on, and then it was time for evening milking. The week between Christmas and New Year’s was spent visiting our Albany relatives, ending with a New Year’s Eve dinner at my uncle’s place. ~

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