And so this is Christmas . . .

Almost two years ago,my mother passed away at the age of 96 1/2 and the following is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral. You’re probably wondering if I’ve gone barking mad to publish a eulogy during the holiday season but it is all about Christmas and memories of my mother.


 

A Poet . . . . A Nurse . . . . An Artist . . . . A Mother

Four facets of a highly intelligent and talented woman. We could spend all afternoon relating her many attributes and achievements. This morning, however, I will tell you about only one.

It is no great secret that Lucile Parsons loved Christmas. In fact, if it had been possible, our mother would have married Santa Claus. This means that my brother and I would have gone into the family business  . . . . as Elves.

Her love of Christmas began when she was little Lucile Tench.  She remembered that as the season approached, she would catch my grandmother sitting down to rest and would immediately beg: “Let’s talk about Christmas”. Grandmother Tench must have known what was coming every time as she would patiently explain – step by step – the process of baking,

shopping, and so on down to that exciting morning when Christmas finally arrived.

A perennial story told by our aunts and uncles – as well as Mother herself – relates how one year, Lucile refused to allow her mother to take the Christmas tree down after the holiday was over. Epiphany came and went and the tree remained standing in the parlour.

There was no such thing as central heating at the Tench house on Petersburg’s East Bank Street and in the winter, a fire was laid in the front parlour only when it was absolutely necessary. Those cool conditions kept the tree in a relatively fresh state for weeks, and Lucile would go into that room after school and gaze in wonder at the tree’s magnificence; so beautiful, so fragrant, so tall in its finery.

January was history, February came and went, and still the tree stood in the Tench parlour, and Lucile still paid a visit every day. It was not until mid-March that the tree finally came down and only then because the parlour was needed for a family funeral.

Webster’s dictionary defines Christmas as “a Christian feast on December 25”.  At 208 Oakwood Avenue, feast could be considered to be the operative word, as an avalanche of cookies, fruitcake, fudge – three kinds, mind you – and candies of all sorts poured forth from that tiny kitchen.

My brother and I were gainfully employed carrying plates of these tasty treats to teachers, neighbours, family friends–and I do not once remember anything but a big smile when they opened their front doors, and saw what we were delivering.

The feast was not limited to these goodies. Returning home from the service here at Saint John’s, we were treated to a Smithfield ham baked to perfection, turkey, fresh rolls, the obligatory vegetables, and fanciful concoctions such as Tipsy Squire and Syllabub for dessert.

The day was capped off – at least for the adults – with cups of Eggnog, sometimes made from scratch, and always spirited appropriately. And I should add that on Lucile’s last Christmas Day, she was offered a cup of eggnog and the first words out of her mouth were “Does it have anything in it?”

Lucile was a stalwart of the annual Christmas bazaar here at Saint John’s. Every year, along about March or April, our house was transformed into Santa’s Workshop as Mom began to turn out a variety of items to be sold in Eppes or Ribble Hall the following November. Our mother – as artisan – would try her hand at new painting and handicraft techniques to create holiday trimmings and other decorative items.

Even today, there are Christmas Trees – both here in Hopewell and elsewhere – that still boast Lucile’s hand-made ornaments.

My mother loved Christmas.

They say that spring is less than a month away and today’s weather would seem to bear that out. But for the next few minutes, I want you to pretend . . . and sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” just as if it were Christmas Eve here at Saint John’s and Santa Claus is on his way.

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