My Dad’s mother always held court with her new husband Larry and together they had a small two bedroom apartment at Dawes & Danforth Roads in Toronto. They would decorate the place with blue and red dazzling aluminum wreaths and baubles and frilly bells and bows like some Dr. Seuss cartoon come to life. But, it wasn’t until the blinding chrome aluminum Christmas tree came out that we knew it was truly Christmas with The Vernons.

It was the Christmas of ’73 when the entire extended family was all able to return to their homestead for the first time since the early 1960s. It was a rare occasion that my Dad’s sister and her daughter were able to fly in from California to complete a Vernon reunion that included six brothers/sisters, their respective spouses and no less than nine cousins in attendance.  Did I mention it was a two bedroom apartment?

The women helped Gran cook the meal. The men stood on the balcony and smoked/drank, attempted to assemble toys from the instructions supplied  and/or take the kiddie brood out to the park for ice-skating and tobogganing.

Grandma Vernon's Xmas 1966Grandma Vernon's Xmas 1966Then the time would come for dinner to be served. The children sat at tables in the kitchen or in the living room using TV trays while the adults sat at a massive mahogany dining room table. It was adorned with candles and a crocheted table cloth handmade by Gran. The table required a centre leaf to expand it for accommodating the size of our clan.

In no time at all the ladies paraded from the kitchen with various dishes of potatoes, turnips, peas, corn, stuffing, Pillsbury dinner rolls and cranberry sauce. And the piece-du-resistance was always the 25 lb turkey carved fresh and escorted to the centre of the table by Larry.

Grandma Vernon's Xmas Early70sGrandma Vernon's Xmas Early70sAs we prepared to dig into the greatest family Christmas meal of all time, the weight of the turkey buckled the table in the centre and both ends began to flip upward like a buffet hall on the Titanic. With  precision military style, Uncle Joe stood up to catch the sliding turkey, my Dad dropped to the ground and was holding the table up from underneath while Larry pulled the table cloth from his Kingly position at one end and my Gran at the other. In rapid succession everyone saved as many dishes as possible. Only the candle sticks and condiments slid into the chasm that used to be the centre of the table until several hands reached under to help my father right the table once more.

It took team work to make the meal. And it took teamwork to eventually eat it. After a good laugh and a tryptophan overdose, we dimmed the lights and retired to the living room to catch the annual airing of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ where Vince Gauraldi ‘s soundtrack - including the musical highlight “Christmas Time Is Here” –  danced along to the blinking lights on Gran’s aluminum tree.