Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Memorable For All the Right Reasons

Husby is doing much better. Not out of the woods yet, but the forest is thinning . . .
Thank you, everyone for your good wishes.
They really help!
Christmas Elf: Caught in the Act . . .
It started out ordinarily enough.
Dad waving from the driveway as he started the long drive to Lethbridge to begin his Christmas shopping.
I should point out, here, that Dad always began and ended his shopping on the same day.
Christmas Eve.
He had a thing about children sneaking into his closet to peek at presents.
Not that I ever did. Personally, I think it had something to do with his own childhood and his own childhood foibles and tendencies.
Let's not talk about this any more . . .
We waved happily to him, then went back to helping Mom with the Christmas baking.
Our duties were carefully delineated.
She mixed.
We watched/hovered.
She finished mixing and dug out cookie sheets and baking pans.
We tasted.
She shooed us away and began to spoon/scrape.
We watched/hovered.
She turned to put pans into the oven.
We tasted.
She shooed us away and finished spooning/scraping.
She turned to put pans into the oven.
We licked the bowl.
Literally.
She shooed us away and started again.
She mixed.
We watched/hovered . . .
You get the picture.
But when pans started coming out of the oven, yet another duty was added to the roster.
Eating the now-baked deliciousness.
And so it went.
Everyone had their responsibilities clearly outlined and we did them whole-heartedly.
No slackers in this bunch.
Sometimes, though, baked goodies actually made their way past the ravening hordes children to the fancy Christmas platters set out to receive them.
Not often, I will admit, but frequently enough that we realized what those platters were for.
But I digress . . .
Other duties included:
  1. Hiding when the baking was finished and clean up was indicated.
  2. Giggling loudly during hide-age.
  3. Sitting under the tree and periodically shaking/squeezing packages.
  4. Teasing younger siblings that Santa Claus would never be able to find our ranch.
  5. Re-arranging Christmas ornaments.
  6. Breaking said ornaments.
  7. Hiding again.
It was a busy day.
Mostly for my Mom, but why haggle over details?
Finally, just as we were getting ready to climb into bed for the long, sleepless night, we would hear Dad's car pull into the driveway.
And then would begin another whole round of children milling about excitedly.
Sleep was further away than ever.
But, finally, we were herded into our beds and the doors firmly shut against peekage/sneakiness.
The wait was on.
I shared a room with my younger brother, Blair and my younger sister, Anita.
Somehow, I managed to keep them bottled up until some of us (not me) were ready to fizz over.
About 5 AM.
We could wait no longer.
Now the rule in the Stringam household was 'Look, but don't touch until Mom and Dad's feet hit the living room floor'.
On this particular Christmas, looking was especially exciting.
Because Dad had strewn his gifts over the living room floor.
The entire living room floor.
From the soft light of the Christmas tree, we were able to make out strange, long objects arranged at intervals from the doorway all the way to the tree itself.
What could they be?
We knelt down in the doorway, trying to get a better view.
Weird.
Had he opened a crate of something and left the boards flung about like flotsam?
Normally such behavior was reserved for the younger set.
Double weird.
Just when we were ready to burst with the excitement and curiosity, we heard our parents make their way up the hall towards us.
Finally!
Dad reached around the corner and snapped on the light.
Our eyes were glued to the newly-revealed treasures.
Skis!
The entire floor was littered with skis!
Beside each carefully arranged set of skis were a pair of poles and leather ski boots.
We hopped and skipped carefully around the room, checking name tags and finally settling beside the set that bore ours.
Mine were blue.
With long, silver poles.
And black leather ski boots.
I don't remember what else I got that year (sorry, Family).
Nothing could compare with my shiny new and wondrous skis.
Then I discovered that the excitement didn't end there.
The rest of Dad's gift included a week-long family skiing trip to The Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana.
The first of many such trips.
And the beginning of a whole new chapter for the Stringams.
Yup. The best Christmas ever.

Now, it's your turn. What was your best childhood Christmas ever?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pajama Game 2013

We have a tradition in our home.

Well, several, actually.
But I'm only going to talk about this one . . .
Pajamas. On Christmas eve.
And spaghetti, but that is another story.
So . . . pajamas.
Every year, Mom hunts up the most distinctive pattern she can find and everyone is forced excited to wear it.
So, in honour of this very special time, here are a few examples from the past.
Enjoy!
 Christmas, 2002.  And no, that isn't a cow print couch . . .
Christmas 2003. And yes, we do look like escaped prisoners.

2007.  Little jump, here.

2008 and our numbers are increasing.
You can't see the striped socks, but they're there!
2009. Things are changing radically . . .
2010. What a mob!
2011. Well, a small, but important sample.
2012. The year of the polka dot.

And that brings you up to date.
Here is a tiny sample of this year's PJs.
They'll be worth the wait . . .
Pajama factory
AND they glow in the dark!
More pictures to follow . . .
How are your Christmas preparations coming?
I hope they are colourful and bright!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh, Christmas Coat!

Husby is very ill.
A repost from a year ago...
Clockwise from right: Aly (Hired man's son),
Anita, Blair, and Me - in my little gold beauty.
It wasn't often that we kids were able to go on a field trip with my Dad.
When it happened, we were eager.
When it happened at Christmas, we were beyond excited.
Ecstatic.
Exuberant.
Exhilarated.
Elated.
Euphoric.
Electrified.
That's all of the 'E' words I can think of.
Except that 'energetic' should be stuck in there somewhere.
And, for me, usually immediately followed by, "Empty all tanks!"
When I think about it, I guess it's not surprising that we didn't go on field trips with my Dad very often.
Back to my story . . .
Dad was taking us four oldest kids to the Sweetgrass Hills to cut down our family's Christmas tree.
It was the 50's.
Families did things like that back then.
But we had to make a quick stop in Milk River at the Robinson's store to get me a winter coat.
I had outgrown my old one and Dad wasn't excited about trailing me through the forest wrapped in my blanket.
Go figure.
So the excitement level for this trip had just been dialed way up.
In fact, I was so elated, that Dad didn't even wait for the 'announcement' (see above), but sat me in the car with a bucket already in my lap.
Smart man.
We made the 20 miles to Milk River without incident. (see above . . . again.)
And entered the store.
I should explain here that the Robinson's Store was the only shop in Milk River that featured clothing.
There were neat piles of everything wearable.
And the wood plank floors creaked delightfully.
And if you were really lucky, you got to watch Theo Barrows gift wrap packages at her counter in the middle of the store.
The curling of the ribbons was especially fascinating.
Where was I  . . .?
Oh, yes.
New coat.
Dad asked the manager where we could find coats in my size and was conducted, with me tagging eagerly behind, to a rack at one side of the store.
My eyes were immediately drawn to a gold, furry, wonderful garment.
I reached out a hand and brushed the soft fur.
Oooooh!
"This one, Daddy! This one!"
"Okay, we'll try this one," Dad said.
I dropped my blanket and slipped my arms into the sleeves.
Perfect!
"I guess we'll take it," Dad said.
Good thing, too, because there was no way they were ever going to pry me out of that coat.
Dad paid and we trooped back out to the car.
The other kids excited now to get to the real reason for this trip.
Me brushing and brushing the soft fur on my arms and chest.
We had fun finding the tree.
I think.
We did end up with one.
I really don't remember much about it.
Me and my coat were happy, sitting in the car together.
And watching through the windshield.
Because, after all - one couldn't wear one's new coat out into nature!
What if it got soiled?
Dad later said something about 'waste of time and money'.
But who listened?
Later:
Blair (in my now-outgrown coat which he hated), and Anita
The original recycling program




Theo Barrows in Robinsons
Just thought you'd like to see . . .

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Love

Little Sister and Christmas. They just go together . . .
Who loves Christmas more?
Where we live, in largely Christian Alberta, it’s a fairly popular holiday.
With a slow build-up in ads and TV spots through October and November until the air waves and print media offer almost exclusive rights to the season by the time December rolls around.
Oh, the TV/Newspaper moguls toss in a bit of news/entertainment as a sop to the die-hard ‘wanna know what’s going on in the world’ people . . .
But who loves Christmas most?
In the Stringam household, Christmas was a season on hold.
Right through August.
I am not making this up.
Little Sister would quite literally come home from her first day of school in September and drag out her Christmas records.
Which she played from then through Christmas.
Yesterday, the song, “Snoopy VS the Red Baron” came on the radio and I knew every word.
Every. Word.
Sigh.
And then she would start wrapping.
She wrapped everything.
Beautifully and often . . . creatively.
Old toys.
Kitchen gadgets.
Books.
Games.
Clothing.
The spoon you had just used to stir your chocolate milk.
If you were slightly inattentive, your glass of chocolate milk.
And the cookie.
If it wasn’t nailed down, or too heavy for her to lift, it got wrapped.
And then, if one wanted to use said-item-that-one-had-just-laid-down-only-a-moment-ago, one had the joy of unwrapping it first.
One year, Mom came up with the startlingly clever idea of giving Little Sister a box of ‘wrapping stuff’.
Paper, tape, scissors, ribbons, bows, tags, etc.
Which was . . . how do I put this . . . well and totally used.
There was an ad on TV some years ago which showed a completely-wrapped dog with an equally wrapped ball.
It was hilarious.
It was shot as our house.
Not really, but you get the picture.
So, back to my question.
Who loves Christmas most?
I’m proposing the name of my Little Sister.
For all of the above . . .

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