It was 1954 when the Loriol Family came to St. Johnsbury, Vermont from France. The family was a match for ours with two girls and a boy and we were all of similar ages. M. Georges Loriol was an English teacher in France and had come on an exchange program to teach French at St. Johnsbury Academy, where my father taught English. Both of our families lived in school accommodation and lived more or less across the street and around the corner from each other.
Christmas 1954 is the only time I can remember that our family ever had dinner at someone's house other than our own. I only wish that I had a better memory of the feast that was laid before us -- but 9-year-old cretin that I was, I had absolutely no appreciation of the culinary delights that would have been placed before us. I am sure I turned up my nose at almost everything though!
My memory of the day is mostly about events earlier in the day! Events that had everything to do with presents. And avarice ... mine! At that age Christmas for me was all about presents -- my presents! And the present I was always most interested in was what was my new doll going to be like. I had been told that this was the last Christmas I would be getting a doll because the next year I was going to be too old to get dolls. So I was really really hoping for something special! And in the back of my head I also worried that maybe I would like my sister Mary's doll more than my own!!
As usual Christmas morning came earlier than my parents would have liked and the two sisters clambered down the stairs and into the living room to find out what Santa had laid out for them. The dolls were a success and I liked mine as much as the other one. So we played and sooner or later Mom and Dad arrived to find out what had come down the chimney for their dear little girls.
Now it was the custom in our family that Santa Claus would deliver his presents around the room -- along with stockings. And we children were allowed to come down and discover our new treasures and play quietly until the adults came downstairs to join us. We would then have some kind of breakfast and after that it was time to give out the other wrapped presents from other relatives. These were all piled high in the dining room -- inviting all kinds of speculation and picking up and shaking and so on. This particular year there was a package still in its postal wrapping that my mother had surmised had come from my grandmother. But when she took the wrapping off there was a sudden mysterious exclamation -- she tried to hide it as soon as she saw that immediately my nosey little ears had pricked up and that I was aware that something 'big' was up!
Mom was being very coy and she and Dad said something about 'Maybe Easter' and the package was suddenly wrapped back up -- but not before I had seen loads of tissue paper and two great big boxes and heard the words "I thought they hadn't come and so I ordered new ones" -- and then I heard my father say,
"Maybe we should give them to the Loriol girls". And then my Mother said, "Oh, no that's far too much..."
Well! You can but imagine my indignation! My sense that I was definitely being done out of something that I would not like being done out of!!! Anyway, the mysterious box -- which I was convinced in my tiny little mind contained more dolls -- was put away and what with getting ready to go to the Loriols house for a meal around noon, I let my worries subside -- for the time being...
Now we had some little presents for Annie and Yvette Loriol -- some little dollies -- very little and very inexpensive -- the kind of thing you could buy in Woolworths for probably less than a dollar. We all piled into the car and just as we did who should arrive breathless and all smiles, but Annie. She was sooooooo excited -- about Christmas and just couldn't wait for us to get to their house. We were allowed to bring our new dollies with us and when Annie saw them she got so excited and oohed and ahhed with such enthusiasm that guess what happened! From the back seat of the car I saw my parents look at each other -- they didn't say a word. The next thing I knew my mother got out of the car and went back into the house. A few minutes later she returned -- with the mysterious box. Which I knew, just knew she was going to do!
I remember two feelings about this: my greedy little heart was not pleased; I knew my parents had done the right thing. Oh and they had. The dolls were exquisite -- just wonderful. And those two girls were so thrilled and surprised. And we received the most wonderful little kitchen that my sister and I would play with for hours on end.
And just today I received a letter in the post from Georges Loriol -- in response to my note and Chrsitmas card. He and his wife, Suzanne, are still in their house in Neuville de Poitou at 91 and 92 years! We have an invitation to stay over night with them on our way to and/or from our house in the Lot. I look forward to seeing them again -- with the proviso that he is still alive!!! These people are full of joie de vivre and if the good Lord is willing and the 'crick' don't rise we will share more special time together.