For those of you who are my age, do you ever feel that life is passing you by?
I’ve felt that; life just seems to have flashed by so quickly. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in my 20s.
The truth is I’d just forgotten many of the details of my life. But with a little thought, I can conjure up some memories of what I did each year, who I knew, which places I’d been to. Remembering even just a few of those things makes the years of my life suddenly fill up with crisp, warm detail.
I recently stumbled over an old family movie that, like the storied ghost of Christmas past, reminded me of long-gone celebrations and the people that made it warm and memorable. It brings them to life as I remember them and for a few moments I am there once more.
The film shows Christmas at the Moore’s in 1969 — Ralph and Florence Moore were dear family friends of my parents and they had four children, April (my age), and Stephen, Flo, and Deb, in a sometimes raucous household. As the only child in my family, spending a day with the Moores was certainly a special but exhausting event.
For me, and likely for my parents, the Moores offered a second home and a second family. We were there for the most special occasions: Christmases, birthdays, and more. We visited them on our summer holidays in New Brunswick, and shared their summer holidays at Lake Muskoka after they’d returned to Ottawa. Together, we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and also consoled my mother as one day she suddenly realized she’d forgotten my Dad’s birthday just as Mrs Moore brought out his surprise birthday cake!
I once tried Mr Moore’s patience as he tried in vain to teach me how so sail in a small Laser-type sailboat. I think it dawned on him during the lesson that I had no clue what the names of the sails were as he tried to get me to hoist this or that. I still don’t know how to sail.
Our recorded celluloid Christmas celebration is of another age, but Mrs. Moore’s turkey still looks delicious fifty-one years later, Mr. Moore is still proud of his new ski equipment, and Flo and Deb are equally proud of the Etch-a-sketch Christmas present and their candy canes.
I remember that electrical workshop kit. It was a gift that monopolized my attention for at least a week afterward as I eagerly completed all the electrical experiments.
The warmth around the Christmas dinner table is palpable and my Dad is there in spirit as the one behind the camera.
Soon afterward, we young’uns grew up and developed our own lives and interests, my parents divorced and my Dad embraced his new life, the daily familiarity between the families faded and there were fewer celebrations and events. Before we knew it (and at a too-early age) Ralph had passed on, tragically followed by young Deb some years after.
Those Christmases passed into memory but through this movie, their spirit survives.
Of all the old movies I have, this one is special — not so much because of it’s content, but because of the cast of characters — and for the benevolence and the feeling of family I once enjoyed there.
To Florence, April, Stephen, and Flo: I hope this short film brings you the same warmth I feel in my soul when I am reminded of those days and of your entire family.
Merry Christmas to you all and God bless us, every one.
Hi Derek, What a wonderful surprise you sent, a heart warming gift. Stirred up a lot of tears and memories. I waited till today to write so I would be finished with the crying. but it didn’t work. It also brought a few laughs, I had forgotten about your Dad’s Birthday cake. Glad to hear you are moving to Nova Scotia, you will love it there. We were there for almost 5 years. Ralph worked in Halifax and we lived in Dartmouth. Was difficult to leave when we returned to Ottawa. There is a pub/restaurant in Mahone Bay that was Ralph’s absolutely most favorite place in the whole world. I have a picture of us on the deck. I don’t see how I can send it from here but I will get it to you. Hopefully when you are back in Canada we will get to see you again and meet your wife, that would be lovely. Have a Happy Christmas and a great new year back in Canada. Happy travelling, love Florence