So here it is, the Friday before Christmas, and the Times has requested that we get a column in to them today for the Dec. 28 publication, to enable their employees to have a carefree holiday. As news is scarce this time of year, we will pass along what we have, and if we like, just write about what might be interesting. I wish I could compose something absolutely brilliant, but as that is impossible, I would like to take you on a journey of Christmases past, and perhaps share with you a bit of wisdom I have absorbed over the past 81 years.
My mother-in-law, Betty Alley, always shared how her childhood Christmases were celebrated. The biggest Christmas gift was a hand-knitted Christmas stocking. Tucked in the long length would be small handmade toys, and perhaps mittens, an orange, and some small pieces of candy in the toe, which she said frequently stuck to the yarn in the stocking. The highlight, of course, was the midnight Mass at the Catholic church, but many musicians would go around the town playing violin, mandolin, and other instruments, and singing Portuguese songs. The homeowners would invite the musicians in and serve them food and drink, while the children would watch and listen from upstairs. Such wonderful memories to carry through so many generations.
I have happy memories of my childhood also. Remember that this was in the late 1930s and early ’40s. My parents had moved to the Island shortly after graduating from UNH, and had no other relatives on the Island. Our Christmases were simple, because money was scarce in those years, but Christmas was joyful anyway. The Baptist Church made sure every child got at least one present, and parents did their best to provide for the rest. I remember my father made a bookcase out of two wooden orange crates for my sister Joyce and myself, and painted it blue, and he refurbished an old doll carriage he got from somewhere for my baby sister Ann. We marveled at both, and thought they were wonderful. A book was always there for each of us, and perhaps a book of paper dolls, along with a hand-embroidered handkerchief from one New Hampshire grandmother, and a gallon of real maple syrup from my other one. Most of all, my memories are of love and family at that time. The Christmases we provided for our children were a bit different, as we were able to provide a bit more, perhaps three or four gifts instead of only one. But still the main focus was on family and church.
Now I have gradually learned that the gift does not have to come in a fancy wrapped box, and have great monetary value. What is a gift that is given without love and caring? The gift of sharing time with loved ones is the one that is appreciated more. So next Christmas, instead of just the latest electronic gadget or shiny jewelry, spend time with those who would treasure that gift of yourself.
The loss of the Rev. Alden Besse is a loss for all of us throughout the Island. He was truly the face and action of peace. We shall miss him. Sympathy to Walter Hammond and his siblings on the loss of their mother. We are so sorry.
Sandra deBettencourt celebrated her birthday on Dec. 22. Her daughter and son-in-law Melanie and Mike Marchand hosted a wonderful party at their house, welcoming family and friends to help celebrate.
We send birthday smiles to Anita Combra, who will be 97 years young on the 31st, and Claudia Metell and Ava BenDavid, who celebrate the same day. Jen Araujo and Michelle Bettencourt party on Jan. 2, and Nola Mavro, Chris Alley, and Nicole deBettencourt on Jan. 3.
Enjoy your week. I leave you with a phrase from the poem “At the End of The Year,” from John O’Donohue’s book, “To Bless the Space Between Us.”
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
Happy New Year.