• 72°

Thurston column: Christmas, peace and a soft, green dress

The aroma of the Christmas goose drifting from behind a closed door, mingling with the scent of pine from yet another quickly closed door. Coats and boots dripping with melting snow, falling on my feet and the hallway runner. Large mysterious packages quietly slipped through a door behind which nothing but velvet darkness lingered. A soft green wool dress swirling in a darkened hallway and patent leather shoes reflecting white silken knee socks. These were all part of a very special night in Copenhagen in 1945, the first Christmas Eve after World War II had ended.
Earlier, leaving our apartment with armloads of gifts, my parents and I had eased into the warm seats of an awaiting taxi and watched the holiday lights reflect on the black exterior of the moving car.
As the auto rumbled through city streets, we observed hurrying crowds bustling from store to store with last-minute errands, while others, like ourselves, were carrying gifts wrapped in bright Christmas paper. All were dressed in warm coats and mufflers and everyone was headed for the homes of family and friends in order to share with them this exciting evening.
This was THE big night and it all began with the new dress, sewn from soft green wool, embroidered in red and white holiday flowers and made especially for me for this occasion. The very feel of the gown, as it swirled around my knees, held promises of a wonderful time at my grandmother’s home where, in addition to my father’s mother, we would be joined by his bachelor brother and maiden aunt.
Traditionally, every Christmas Eve began with amber-colored sherry, sparkling in antique, crystal goblets and the bell-like clinks as five adults toasted, while a smaller glass, bubbling with red soda tickling my nose, helped heighten my festive mood.
Grandmother studied cooking in France. On this night, she served succulent goose, mouth-watering red cabbage, tiny potatoes browned in butter giving them a caramel look and a tempting aroma.
When all this was devoured, it was my turn to help in the kitchen. With a starched, crisp, white apron wrapped around me, protecting the new green dress, I stood on a small stool, chest just above the counter, and beat the metal whisk until small peaks swirled from the ice cold, heavy cream. This would be smoothly blended with fruit, nuts and rice into the rich, traditional Danish dessert.
After the holiday meal was over, I would sit on the kitchen “hot-box” filled with musty newspapers and country-fresh straw, where previously the dishes had been kept warm. I sang Christmas songs for my grandmother while she prepared steaming hot coffee for the adults and warm, delicious cocoa for me.
Then, after what seemed an eternity, my father and uncle would call from behind the sliding doors leading into the previously closed living room. As the squeaking doors receded into the walls, they revealed a dark fir, shining with lighted candles, gold and silver ornaments, saved from years past and now reflecting my bright eyes.
My grandmother and my father each took my hands as we joined up with my mother, uncle and great aunt, and slowly circled the stately fir. Old Danish hymns rang out in bass, tenor, and one small soprano voice while thin tinsel strands fluttered from the fragrant branches like silver rain.
Later, as a feeling of peace fell on the room, I sat on the smooth Oriental carpet, family and presents all around me, and watched the flames in the coal stove sputter against the glass window.
At 5, I was too young to know that someday the green woolen holiday dress would become an important part of my memories. I would recall that this was a time when the tiny kingdom, the home of Hans Christian Andersen and The Little Mermaid, had again returned to a fairytale land; coming out from its long years of darkness and into the light. The presence of the Nazi regime would be gone, but not forgotten; the King would resume his daily ride along the streets near the harbor, and my mother and grandmother would again take their Sunday stroll through a street in the inner city.
I would remember this time, as I still do, with a warm heart and recall that this Christmas Eve in 1945 would forever symbolize peace on earth and good will toward men.

Heidi Thurston lives in Kannapolis.

Comments

Comments closed.

Crime

Blotter: Police respond to shots fired call outside of Salisbury home

Coronavirus

County tied for fifth among counties for most COVID-19 deaths

Health

‘Nudge from God’: 10 years after diagnosis, Rockwell man to receive kidney from live donor

Crime

Salisbury police warn residents after increased trailer thefts

Education

Elon heightens alert as 32 test positive; Wake Forest in good shape to continue instruction as is

Cleveland

Corn picker catches fire at Knox Farm, destroying nearly eight acres

Nation/World

House easily passes stopgap funding bill, averting shutdown

News

Supreme Court vacancy looms large in 2nd NC Senate debate

Coronavirus

Additional COVID-19 death reported in Rowan; Cooper announces small business relief

Crime

Asheville man charged with heroin possession following traffic checkpoint

Education

Susan Cox conceding school board race, putting support behind opponent

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools will survey families, stakeholders about next superintendent

Local

Library to reopen for in-person visits Oct. 1

Local

Rowan Sheriff’s Office K-9s to receive bulletproof vests

Crime

Man charged with sex offense, raping teen

Business

Commissioners receive analysis of county’s development application process

Crime

Man arrested in Spencer in connection with Charlotte murder investigation

Local

County government losing assistant manager, social services director

Education

RSS will collect information on full K-5 return

Education

KCS sees smooth transition back to classes, unlikely to transition to all in-person for K-5

Nation/World

Barrett emerges as court favorite; Trump to pick by weekend

Local

Tillis says Trump will extend offshore drilling pause to NC

Coronavirus

12% of all Rowan COVID-19 cases currently active

Crime

Blotter: Concord man faces drug charges after hotel disturbance call