It was Christmas, 1977, and my mum and her dad were at the laundromat in Cloverdale, passing a puck back and forth in the parking lot.
My mum, a shy kid of nine, and her six-year-old sister had both received hockey sticks for Christmas; a broken washing machine meant they were tested out while a week’s worth of clothes spun at the laundromat.
“After one of two passes back and forth, Gramps says ‘Oh, let me show you how to lift the puck,’” my mum remembered.
“So he’s standing on the other side of the parking lot and lifts the puck and it boinks me right there,” she said, pointing to her right eyebrow. “And then I start bleeding.”
Leaving the clothes in the washing machine, my gramps pops my mum in his truck. “He picks up this dirty old rag off the floor of the farm truck that I can hold over my wound,” she said.
They drive to Surrey Memorial Hospital, where my mum gets stitches and Gramps is asked if he would like to press charges against the person who did this to his daughter. (He didn’t.) Then it’s back in the truck to their home on 176 Street where my granny was waiting, oblivious to what had happened.
“Granny is very, very angry,” my mum said, starting to laugh. “But mostly she’s angry because we left all the laundry at the laundromat, and somebody might steal it.”
The hockey puck story, from which my mum still bears a scar, isn’t the only Christmas memory she has of Cloverdale. After all, my granny, my gramps, my mum and her sister lived in Cloverdale for five years — and five years leaves a lot of time for Christmas memories.
| Annette Tande, my mum, with Santa Claus in the 1970s.
Photo courtesy of Annette Kennedy
But the hockey story is one of the most vivid. Others blend together with the passing of years until they become tradition: steamy kitchen windows, a flurry of torn wrapping paper, mountains of dishes and birthday cake for the youngest cousin. When dinner came, it was a table for 12: my mum’s immediate family, plus two aunts and their families, and a grandmother.
“There might have been one or two extras,” my granny remembered, “because sometimes if I heard that somebody was going to stay by themselves at Christmas, I would invite them over for Christmas dinner.”
Karen Gendron, a nearly 30-year resident of Cloverdale, agreed.
“Christmas is about family. And we’ve always said that nobody has to spend Christmas alone,” she said.
Karen is the building manager for Wyndham Estates on 176A Street, and the mother of one of my closest friends. She also has a table of 12 (a tight squeeze in an apartment dining room) that welcomes lonely friends.
“Christmas isn’t a time to be alone,” she said.
Christmas isn’t a time to be alone. But it’s hard to be in Cloverdale, where holiday spirit drapes itself over the sidewalks and multiplies in living rooms, store fronts and church halls.
On Christmas Eve, Pacific Community Church is always full, the Gendrons said, with church-goers illuminated by their candles as they sing Silent Night. Forty years ago, Christ the Redeemer Anglican church was over-full, my gramps remembered, with parishioners standing outside in the graveyard during the service.
Even for those who eschew religious ceremony, it’s hard to escape company in Cloverdale.
“The wonderful thing about Cloverdale is people just come out for everything. Everything,” Karen said. “No matter what the weather’s going to be for a parade, you can count on a crowd.”
| Taryn (left) and Holly Gendron, eating maple syrup candy in the early 2000s.
Photo courtesy of Karen Gendron
For Karen and my friend Holly, the best Christmas parade has always been the Santa Claus Parade — a precursor to what is now the Surrey Santa Parade of Lights. Back then, in the late 1990s, Santa and Mrs. Claus would arrive in Hawthorne Square to greet believing children with smiles and crafts.
“She was always so warm,” Holly said about Mrs. Claus. “She kind of reminded me of the Mrs. Claus from the Rudolph Christmas special, where Santa could be a little friendlier — not that Santa was unfriendly, but like Mrs. Claus was kind of holding the show together.”
Kids would make crafts and eat popcorn; parents would bump into families they knew. It was not much different than the ballet recitals and Christmas concerts of my mum’s youth, where parents met up with each other again and again during December rehearsals.
Between the individual Christmas memories — making maple syrup candies on a block of ice, or ice skating on flooded fields at Fry’s Corner, or even getting stitches from a hockey puck to the face — the community of Cloverdale always managed to thread its way into family stories.
“It was a nice town in those days,” my granny said. Looking around as Cloverdale prepares for Christmas, I can confidently say it still is.
Do you have memories or photos of your Christmases in Cloverdale? Whether it’s a favourite Christmas gift, an iconic family recipe or just a moment walking down main street, share them with us by emailing email@example.com.