My Dad always took great delight in regaling us with his favourite Christmas story. It was a story from my mother’s youth, and he had not yet met my mother when it happened, but he enjoyed recounting it every year and we never tired of hearing it.
My Mom came from a family of nine children. She grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and the story took place in her family home on Christmas Eve of 1924, when she was 15 years old.
Her older brother, my Uncle Eugene, had come home safely from World War I and had married a young widow, Della Sinnett, from Arnprior, Ontario. When their son, Frankie, was born at the end of 1921, there was great joy.
Unfortunately, the happy occasion was short-lived. In spring of 1923, when Della was expecting their second child, she succumbed to septicemia.
Who would take care of young Frankie?
Frankie stayed with his grandparents. My grandmother was a warm, loving lady and she took care of the young toddler, with the help of her daughters still living at home.
On Christmas Eve of 1924, the family gathered and made their way to St. Anne’s Catholic Church for Midnight Mass, but Frankie did not go. Someone stayed home to take care of him. Who it was we never knew. That person must have dropped off to sleep but Frankie woke up. The little three-year-old, mesmerized and filled with curiosity, he made his way in to the parlour where all the presents were under the Christmas tree.
I like to imagine him as, with great gusto, he proceeded to open each one of them, scattering paper, ribbons, bows and boxes all over the room! You can imagine the chaos when the family returned from church expecting to sit at the large dining room table and enjoy a traditional French Canadian Réveillons, when families gathered after Midnight Mass. Tourtiére, the famous French Canadian meat pies were freshly baked for this special occasion, along with many other favourite dishes.
All the family could do was to laugh and try to sort out the presents while some of the family members prepared the traditional Reveillons feast, one that our family kept for many years.
Eventually, Frankie’s father, Uncle Eugene, moved to Kirkland Lake, Ontario and remarried. He died in 1969 and is buried there. Frankie died at the age of 61 and is buried in Lasalle Cemetery in Sudbury, Ontario beside his mother, Della Sinnett and close to his Granny and Granpa Jodouin.
You might want to visit the following website. Although they focus on Quebec, the Reveillons is traditional among French Canadians throughout the country,