Christmas Eve at our family home was a joyous affair as my mom entertained friends and family. There were six of us kids and we were always encouraged to have our friends come over. As we got older and were no longer living at home the evening gathering was often where we caught up with friends as they knew they were always welcome at mom’s.
At the end of the evening we would go to Christmas mass at the Anglican Church we attended. It was a beautiful church, in the old grand tradition of churches in southern Ontario — large brick monuments with beautiful stained glass in all the windows.
My mom always liked to go to church, and I think it was about the quiet, the traditions, that she enjoyed. She just quietly attended to her faith. My father had been raised a Catholic but had strayed, as they say.
Christmas morning was a hectic time, with gift opening, breakfast, planning the big dinner. And one year my younger brother was adamant that my mom and him go back to church on Sunday morning.
“We went to church last night,” she said.
“I want to go today — it’s Christmas, we should be at church celebrating the birth of Christ,” the young fellow explained.
Her head nearly spun off her neck with that comment. This coming from the young fellow who went reluctantly when he did attend, and caused a ruckus in the pew 90 per cent of the time. Sitting still was not his strong point.
He was adamant. “Well if being in church on Christmas morning is that important to you, we will go.”
Mom gave instructions to the rest of us, who were not to attend as this was just for Mom and him, which of course made us all very suspicious. A date with Mom at church? Really?
He got all dressed up and looked very handsome. Mom did the same and off they went. He was very quiet in the car, and when they got inside the church, very selective about where they sat.
He sat still, holding Mom’s hand occasionally (she had the warmest hands) and looking towards the right side of the church for most of the service. It was a wonderful hour of quiet for my mother as well as a special time with her young 10-year-old son.
When the service ended and they were outside on the front lawn, milling about exchanging greetings with members of the congregation, he left her. He walked up to the cute little blonde girl, with whom he had been exchanging glances throughout the service, and exchanged a small gift that he had tucked in his pocket. The exchange took about 30 seconds and he was back with Mom.
Quietly they drove home. When they pulled in the lane way he thanked her with a big kiss and asked her not to tell his siblings. She didn’t. He told us years later when we were sharing stories about first loves, and she gave the details.
First love, Christmas day, a time when love fills the air as we rejoice and celebrate all that is good and pure about love. Very fitting, I think.
Michele Blais is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star.