Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My first Christmas away from my Belgian home.

Montreal 1953 Christmas time.

We are here since August.
Made friends with another Belgian couple.
They like us, my ex and I, speak French and Flemish intermixed, we get along.

We found an apartment, a "sous terrain"!
What does that mean?
It means that you do have windows but you only see shoes , dogs, a dandelion in the summer and snow for a whole long time in the winter.
You are the basement.
It is the cheapest apartment in all the buildings.

We do not have furniture.
We bought a mattress and put it on the lovely wood floor.
We loved it.
We found heavy crates somewhere and they were our chairs.
Ex made a table with a sheet of plywood on top of some round gadget he found somewhere. I did not ask questions.
Kitchen had built-in cabinets (new to us) a fridge and a stove!!!!
We were in America, albeit North America. We were en route.

We invited our friends for Christmas eve dinner.
She said: lets play it up big.
I have a lovely gown and you do too lets wear that with pearls.
The men laughed out loud but that we did.
I sat with caution on the wood crate not to get the tulle stuck onto it.

My main attraction was my turkey.
I never made a turkey.
We never talked turkey in Belgium it was always chicken or duck.
Turkey's only lived in America I thought.
I called my adopted Aunt J. and asked what to do with it.
I followed all her directions and of course I was going to make french fries with it.
I had with me my good trustworthy frying pot, I would not leave without it.
It was grey enamel inside and red outside, heavy to lift but I was young then.
I was 21. The pot, fresh oil. and the fries done for the first run were all set in the kitchen.
I figured in an hour the turkey would be done, as per instructions.

We went into was the living room and us girls sat with great gestures onto our boxes while the men sat on the floor and we had a glass of wine, all very nice and civil like. Our mothers back home would be proud of us. (Maybe not mine). Our fun was stopped suddenly with faces in the window, grouched on their knees were 2 firemen and then I heard banging on the door.
Firemen came in and ran for the kitchen door.
Smoke came billowing out in dark, dark clouds.
I freaked out . One man opened the oven door and it looked like the oven became a flame, he quickly covered it with something and took out the turkey.
I remember him saying: Madame votre diner.
Then the sous terrain was filled with Montreal fire department.
My first thought was "how much is this going to cost?"
the first thought of these men must have been about these dames sitting in billowing silks and tulle and not a couch or chair in the joint.
They just all made fun of us and told me that the turkey was ok and just smoked now.
My mistake I had put it on a cookie sheet , the fat had run over the sheet and started to burn in the oven.
Aunt J. forgot to tell me to put in a deep pan and I did not have the brains to figure out that the turkey
might be fat!

The fire chief said they wanted to stay for dinner but other crazy people were putting their trees on fire and they had a lot of work ahead. Their service was free.

They opened the windows and let the smoke out , checked all the rooms and the oven (still able to work)
hugged us girls and ran up the steps to the first floor were richer folk lived.

How could I ever forget my first Christmas away from home. For a short while I was embarrassed then we just turned it into something to laugh about for many years.

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