March 17, 2020 By Phyllis Riley


One rarely forgets holidays as they are seared in our brains with a big star, at least mine seem to be. Christmas was the most important as I was growing up. We had no nearby relatives for celebrations, so our Christmases were always at home. Our living room was small so the place for the tree was an adjacent sunroom. The tree always stood against the window, brightly lit for all the neighbors to see. The search each year was for a three-sided tree, always a frustrating experience. Putting on the lights was traumatic for my Dad, but in the end, we were always pleased. Food was important (prime rib, mashed potatoes, peas, mince pie.) In addition, for Christmas, Dad bought an Edam cheese, a solid cheese ball covered in red wax with a lid scalloped by some magic wand. The table was decorated with flowers and dressed with Auntie’s red-rimmed water glasses only used on holidays. I still have those glasses.

School children had separate Presidents Days off for Washington and Lincoln. Valentine’s Day was greatly anticipated in grammar school. A secret card count was always noted (psst — how many cards did you get?) Many of the cards were homemade and clever.

Easter and Christmas were church related. For Easter services the church was filled with flowers (gardenias, hyacinths, lilies, etc.) I remember their perfume as we in the choir entered the church. Heavenly! Our dresses for those days were always new, and Dad supplied corsages for his four women. There was a big festive meal, usually lamb with all the fixings and chocolate bunnies.

Memorial Day and Fourth of July were always celebrated at our camp, complete with a parade of the volunteer fire trucks. The camp compound had only one truck, which I got to drive one year (it was on a dirt road down at camp, no traffic and lots of assistance). In the evening we shot our fireworks out over the lake and sat around the campfire reminiscing.

Halloween was a neighborhood event; even during the twilight we prowled the nearby homes knowing who would have the best treats. In the war years we walked in the dark with a little apprehension. Costumes were always homemade, sometimes clever, and always necessary.

Thanksgiving was another special day. Turkey and pumpkin pie, what else did you need, but there was plenty more. As teenagers we went to the most anticipated football game of the year, Cranston vs La Salle Academy. A big chrysanthemum for the gals was a necessity. Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but it added to the doings of the day.

Holidays are still celebrated now with our extended family — children and grandchildren. But they have grown up in a different era and will never know the thrill of receiving an orange at church during the depression, and one in our stocking. Their memories will be different.


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