A magical time for children

The snow sits firmly frozen to the ground. The temperature did not even reach the melting point yesterday.
Stores have begun the changeover to the Christmas season, with local retailers planning special Christmas promotions across Rainy River District.
My neighbours down the street, the Carlsons, already have their white lights up and shining in the trees surrounding their home.
More lights will be added to homes across the district in the next few weeks as preparations are made for the holiday season.
My wife has stocked the house with baking supplies, and has received guidance from our sons for Christmas baking. Each has their favourites.
I’ve put in my request for mincemeat tarts—a long family tradition that stems from my Scottish heritage. My grandmother made her own mincemeat and it was a treat as a child to have one of her tarts at Christmas.
Christmas is a magical time for children. I remember back to my youth, when my father gave my brother and me $20 for Christmas shopping. It had to go a long way with gifts for my mother, father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Don and I had to be really frugal spenders.
Our shopping was always on a Friday night, when most stores in Fort Frances were open to 9 p.m. for the five Fridays leading up the Christmas and every night for the last two weeks prior to Christmas.
Maybe it was the lights downtown. Maybe it was the festive decorating that merchants did in their windows. Maybe it was the balls and other Christmas decorations hanging from the ceilings.
Or maybe it was the Christmas music being played on phonographs.
For my brother and me, being together—shopping without supervision—was magical. It is a memory I would love to experience again.
For my little sister, we always stopped at the Rijnol because the store carried Barbie dolls, accessories, and “Barbie” clothes.
At Forsberg and Lindberg, Mr. Forsberg sold ties for $1, and they would be boxed and wrapped for you. It always was a stop to pick up presents for my father and uncles.
We shopped at Ray S. Holmes for aromatic pipe tobacco for my father or later a Meerschaum pipe.
Wilkins China and gift store, meanwhile, always was a treasure trove for gifts—you could buy crystal, fine china, figurines, and flowers in one location.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins always were attentive to us (maybe it was because my parents were family friends). Mrs. Wilkins was particularly kind in taking extra time with Don and me.
One of my fondest memories was our picking out a lead crystal toothpick holder that had little artificial violets in it. It was for my grandmother and she placed it prominently on a table for all to see.
We then would wander down to the Clinic Pharmacy and purchase “Dessert Flower” bath powder for my mother. It was our most expensive purchase.
The Friday nights were magical, and store owners helped make those Friday nights memorable. That $20 also had to include, paper, tape, and bows for those gifts where gift-wrapping was not provided.
As we trudged home in the darkness, snow often drifted down. Later Don and I had paper routes, but we continued to shop together.
It was a Christmas tradition that we carried on throughout school.

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