(Pexels)

(Pexels)

LETTER: Memories of Christmas from long ago

At the end of the Second World War, I was a youngster. My family lived in the country on the outskirts of Sussex in England.

Along with plenty of other families, we knew well what it meant to hear our tummy’s rumble with hunger. Each person had a ration book with stamps for food; those stamps represented your allowance for the week. The amount of food was meager, and had to be handled with care to make it stretch a week.

Our parents did their best; my father rented an allotment where he grew vegetables to try and fill our plates at suppertime. My mother made jam and steam puddings, anything that would fill our hollow legs. When the local farmers killed their sheep off, she would buy the scraggy ends, mostly bone, but with lots of veggies she managed to turn it into a tasty Irish-Hotpot, we really felt like nobility on the few occasions we feasted on a meal like that.

Mrs. Hill was the elderly lady who ran the small country store, if there was a Mr. Hill around, we never saw him. Mrs. Hill was a friendly person, who lived behind her shop and kept chickens in her garden. She often slipped the children a tiny piece of licorice along with a wee smile. Sometimes she would give my mother two extra eggs, this was not permitted; the government had inspectors touring the shops to check on shopkeepers. However, Mrs. Hill knew the hard times families faced and tried to help if she could, despite the fines she might be subjected too.

Christmas was a time, even when the bombs were falling, when parents tried to make the best of it for the sake of the children; as young as we were, we learned to live with fear but not to let it paralyze and totally shut out happy occasions.

About three weeks before Christmas, my dad would dress me up warmly, and with his old saw strapped to his bike, plonk me on the cross bar and off we would go up the road. A Christmas tree was our target, I don’t know who owned the woodland, some duke or earl maybe, but no one seemed to mind in those perilous days, the neighbourhood was poor, and we helped one another as best we could.

That night my mother would gather us around the little tree and decorate it with the few bobbles she saved from year to year: three red bells, four gold trumpets and two silver deer, white cotton wool in thin shreds covered the tree which was supposed to represent snow, with a wee silver angel sitting on the top branch. No twinkling lights on our tree – we did not have electricity then, only gas, but the bubbles shone nevertheless from the reflections of the flames in our fireplace. Not much was available at the latter part of the war – special goodies like chocolates and fruit, we dreamed of, but no one had money to buy them, even if they were accessible.

Our Christmas stockings always had a few nuts in the toe; followed by a Mandarin orange and maybe a small toy for my brother, a tiny dolly or puzzle for my sister and me. I can’t ever remember having a turkey dinner, but one year, Mrs. Hill dropped off one of her old chickens that had just died and my mother cooked it anyway. It was the best Christmas dinner ever, and dear old Mrs. Hill tucked in along with us, a memory to treasure for a lifetime.

Happy Christmas to all.

Margaret J. Jestico

Saanichton

Just Posted

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read