Making memories

The Cove Journal by JoDee Samuelson

Art by JoDee Samuelson

For adults, December is the month of nostalgia, turning back the clock, reaching inwards and dusting off a whole lifetime of memories happy and sad. When I hang that blue plastic snowflake (ca 1950s, Wetaskiwin, Alberta) or the handmade baked-and-painted dough Elvis (ca 1980, Clyde River, PEI), or when I make traditional Swedish specialities like liver and barley or “limpa” rye bread, I revisit my own distinctive history.

For children, December is the season of living in a dream world. As a child I spent the month in a trance at the kitchen table, head in hands, studying the Christmas catalogue. Toys toys toys: I wanted them all. I was destined to get underwear, a new skirt and blouse, a novel like Heidi or Treasures of the Snow (wonderful wholesome literature, don’t get me wrong), a book of paper doll cut-outs or a puzzle… but I think I can honestly say that I never received any toys from the Eaton’s catalog. Still, it didn’t hurt to dream.

I wasn’t hard-done by. I had my siblings, and we had a pond next to our parsonage where we could skate all winter long. (See painting above; that’s me at left.) And we had perfect Christmases with all the delicious Swedish food any little Prairie girl could want. 

These are thoughts I want to keep alive, and vintage Christmas ornaments, colored lights, fruitcake and spritz cookies manage to do just that. 

Something else that jogs my memory is sending Christmas cards. My mother created cards for every occasion, and my parents showered dozens—perhaps hundreds—of Christmas cards on friends and relatives, each envelope requiring (can you believe it?) a two-cent stamp. (I may be revealing my age here.) My own family maintains this tradition. We buy card stock, print up a newly created watercolour painting, glue things together, get busy writing personal notes (the most time-consuming part of the process), buy books of stamps (no 2¢ stamps anymore), and let Canada Post do the rest. 

So it’s time to make more memories. COVID left us cautious but optimistic, and Open Houses in the Cove are once again on the agenda. How happy I will be to walk into a neighbor’s home without knocking, sit next to friends I don’t see nearly often enough and eat Christmas cookies. 

Maybe there’ll be a Carol Sing outdoors around a wood fire. While sipping hot chocolate with a marshmallow on top, someone will say, “Remember that year when we had thirteen Open Houses, plus the Living Nativity, plus a Christmas Concert, plus a levee?” And I’ll say, “Yes, that was a bit much—but it was fun!” Someone else will chime in, “Remember that creamy squash soup the Culinary Institute used to make for the Living Nativity?” “Yes, and Stefanie’s good Swiss bread.” “Remember Bailey stepdancing at the concert?” “Those kids are all grown up now.” “How time flies.” “Want another cookie?“ “Yes please.”

Enjoying one another’s company, looking after one another… spreading joy and peace in our own way… and making memories, one Christmas cookie at a time.

Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, filmmaker and artist JoDee Samuelson has lived on the beautiful south shore of Prince Edward Island for the past thirty years.JoDee always loved drawing and was encouraged in all her creative pursuits by her mother, who was a commercial artist before marrying a Swedish minister. JoDee’s interest in filmmaking began when she took part in an animation workshop at the Island Media Arts Co-op in 1989. Her animated films have been shown at festivals around the world, winning numerous awards for the Island filmmaker.