A Grosvenor Christmas

December 12, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It was Christmas Day and I was in my mid-teens. My parents were bundling the gifts into the car and bundling themselves, decked out for the festivities at my maternal grandparents’ home. I adored my Grosvenor grandparents and, even more, I adored my Uncle Dennis who had come home for the Yuletide with his wife, my beloved Aunt Ursel. Yet, for no reason that I could truly define at the time nor can really explain lo- all these years later, I decided that our dog and I would walk to the distance between our two homes. My mother struggled with me over this odd-ball choice but my father overruled her and they took off in the car while Mandy and I, bundled as I was, took off on our adventure.

We were living in Lorne Park at the time and my grandparents lived in Clarkson, so , it was a reasonable distance to walk and one I made from time to time, perhaps better in the summer. Dusk had settled the day into evening’s darker tones. The snow was fresh and the sky was clear. One could almost imagine the bells ringing overhead of a miracle in the making.

There was a nicely wooded area leading to a park about halfway there. As Mandy and I marched through the trees, enough ambient light allowed save passage but stepping into the clearing of the park, the full moon dazzled us with a picture perfect spread of snow that sparkled and no one around to mar the moment. Not normally a winter person, the scene still took my breath away with its idyllic calm, its philosophical serenity.

We only slowed briefly, mindful of the lights and happiness of Christmas in the Grosvenor household and the smiles that were waiting for us there. Danger was not a factor on this walk. Any risk of a brutal encounter in those easier times, when Clarkson was still a “RR” address was extremely slim and we arrived invigorated by the charm of our walk and delighted at the welcome that awaited us.

Although we were not that many, seven of us plus the dog and the two Siamese cats licking their lips in anticipation of clearing the pans, the feast was served with every detail of the best Christmas standards. The Turkey – not rescued from its fate as the centre point of the meal – was stuffed with the same mixture as I use to this day and there were as many roasted vegetables, as many fine desserts, as delicate a sherry as any Baron could wish for in his own home.

If there was a life-long tension between my grandparents and my father, it was set aside so that the conversation rolled with laughter and sincere camaraderie. Later, once each dish was served and enjoyed and a cup of tea had finished the repast, there were too many ladies in the kitchen bustling about the cleanup for me to be more than in the way. That suited me, as it meant I could retire to the couch with my Uncle Dennis, where we each read what was to hand and exchanged commentary on the contents of our reading, in our way, referencing family humour – those nods to old jokes that only come within families or close, long-term friends.

My Uncle Dennis joined the Canadian army when he was a year too young and in spite of his trials as a youth with scarlet fever. Much of his life was spent in Germany, where he studied with the Berlitz Language School, earning a 100% on his final exam (“I knew I was that smart,” he remarked calmly.) and speaking German with fluency.

It was in Germany that he met Ursula, where she was working for the Canadian army in an army cafeteria. They married in Europe and I still remember meeting them at Union Station on their return to Canada for an earlier Christmas. Aunt Ursel brought their own feather duvet. She would fluff it up as she made their bed and, as a child, pick me up and toss me into the middle of it…They never had children.

Back to that Christmas on the couch.

Inevitably, “Hey,” Uncle Dennis addressed me, “Are you hungry? I know there’s a neck out there if I can persuade the ladies to part with it.”

“Well, yes, of course, that would be perfect after all this time since dinner,” I confirmed. “Will you face the throng in the kitchen?”

“I will,” said he.

He marched into the kitchen, intrepid and brave to the outcries of “Den! You just ate!” from Aunt Ursel and “What do you mean, you want the neck?” from Grandmy Grosvenor.

He was undaunted, blaming me, “But I have a starving kid out there!”

“Here, take it and go!” was his victory.

It didn’t even come with a plate. He held it out to me: “Pull.”

And we sat at each end of the couch, picking the meat with our teeth from between the discs in the neck, grinning like a pair of miscreants.

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