Last year, my assistant, Ruth Hill, did a sweet interview with my amazing mother, Fran Greene. What a beautiful Christmas surprise this conversation was, and it is my honor to share that interview on this special edition of the Greene Room Blog.
“There has never been, nor will there ever be,
anything quite so special as the
love between the mother and a son.”
RH: What were family Christmases like when Paul and Stephen were growing up?
FG: Well, we always got together with family. They lived 350 kilometers away. They would come back and forth every Christmas. It was more towards New Year’s that they would all come to our place. Our Christmas was with my mom and dad usually. They would come over. They lived just across the creek when the boys were smaller. For New Year’s, we always got together with all the families down south. That included three of Earl’s sisters and their families.
RH: Paul has mentioned that it was a big gathering when the family got together.
FG: We had sixty-some people in our house. We had a big home and a big basement area. Through the years, we bought our own food and cooked. But then, in the later years, we had it catered.
RH: Oh, that’s smart! I was thinking that was a pretty big family group to cook for! What is something traditional that you liked to cook at Christmastime?
FG: When Mom and Dad were there, we had Oliebollen. It’s a traditional Christmas or New Year’s treat. It is a New Year’s cookie or doughnut. Mom would always come over and make them. I never did, but she would make Oliebollen and dip them in sugar. The boys just loved them.
RH: That sounds really good!
FG: Do you have a German background?
RH: I do have some German background, and my aunt, who recently passed away, was German. When she was younger, she would make incredible things for Christmas. Her Buttercream Cake was always a big thing in our family. It was this massive cake that was a special recipe she had brought from Germany. She also made the best German Potato Salad.
FG: I wonder if she made those New Year’s cookies? These cookies are deep-fried, but she never did that, eh?
RH: I don’t remember her doing that, but she cooked a lot, and my grandmother did too. We had a good-sized family as well when everybody got together. Thanksgiving was always a bigger time for us. We would all get together for Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house, and my grandmother was an amazing cook. I don’t remember her making doughnuts like that.
FG: Well, the cookies are like doughnuts. You could put dried fruit in them. We would just put raisins in them, and then you could have plain ones. Then you would dip them in icing sugar, and they were really good.
Rh: That sounds really good! So was there anything that you cooked traditionally for the main meal?
FG: We would have turkey. And lots of time we would have ham. Mom and Dad were from the Old Country, so they were more into ham. But we had turkey too.
RH: That sounds pretty typical. We go more for ham. My mom just bought a ham at Costco for Christmas.
FG: Old Country people went more for ham and potatoes and turnips and Brussel sprouts.
RH: Did you do a lot of decorating for Christmas?
FG: We had a Christmas tree. And then I would have some strings of lights hung above the fireplace. Outside, Earl would decorate a big tree with lights, too, sometimes.
RH: Did you guys do a real tree or a fake tree?
FG: It was usually a real tree. But as the years went on, we only got a fake tree.
RH: I kind of thought you probably used to have a real tree.
FG: Yeah, we lived along a creek, and there were lots of trees there.
RH: Did you guys have any special holiday traditions?
FG: What we would do was always read Luke chapter 2 before we opened our presents.
RH: Oh, cool! We would do the same thing. My dad would always read the Christmas story before we opened the packages. In fact, I remember when I was really little, I didn’t like that! I wanted to get to opening the packages.
FG: I bet you did! Yeah. And then Dad and Mom would always sing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” The boys might not remember that, but maybe they do.
RH: That’s a really neat tradition. So did you open your packages on Christmas morning or Christmas Eve?
FG: Christmas Eve.
RH: That’s how my aunt from Germany would do it too. When I was growing up and still to this day, we open them on Christmas morning. We would open one package on Christmas Eve, and we would open all the rest on Christmas morning. Do you have any favorite Christmas carols?
FG: They’re all favorites. I can’t think of any right now. “Joy To the World” is always a good one and “The First Noel.”
RH: You would have been singing all the old Christmas carols that people don’t sing much anymore. I’m always happy when Paul will get on and sing some of those old Christmas carols and hymns.
FG: You know, we would sing those more in church than we would at home. Sometimes we went to church on Christmas Eve, but I can’t remember it being that often that we did that.
RH: I understand. We didn’t grow up going to church on Christmas Eve either. I’ve done it more as an adult than as a child. Our church didn’t even have a Christmas Eve service when I was growing up. Other churches would, but we never did. Do you have any favorite Christmas movies?
FG: The Sound of Music.
RH: Oh, yes, my goodness! I love The Sound of Music!
FG: I just watched it the other night again. It was my mom’s favorite too. We would always watch that.
RH: That movie is one of my all-time favorites.
FG: You know, Paul was really involved in volleyball in his junior high and high school years. He was singing in church from around the time of age three or four, “His Banner Over Me Is Love.” He would stand on the pew and sing it with all his heart. This was at Mom and Dad’s in BC. He would just sing his heart out. Do you know that song?
RH: Oh yes, I know that song. In fact, I know he has sung that song on some of his gospel Sundays.
FG: I think he did. He was interested in the guitar, but he didn’t do much with guitar lessons. Then we bought him a set of drums, and he drummed in church.
What I forgot to tell you is that when we had our Christmas, we had about five snowmobiles that we would go up and down the creek with. And everybody would do it. We had a place where we would put the little ones in, and we would go down the creek with the snowmobiles. We sure enjoyed it.
RH: I can imagine. Somewhere I think Paul has mentioned snowmobiles. I think he remembers those pretty well.
FG: The boys were always helping around the property, cleaning things up. We had a showerhead company for a couple of years, and Paul was a great door-to-door salesman. He could sell those showerheads. Paul could sell ice to Eskimos! He was so good at selling, and he was only fourteen or thirteen at the time. He did that for a while.
He was very involved with Earl’s treatment for ALS. He brought us to California, and Earl did a session down there with ozone and all other kinds of things. Both of the boys were involved with fundraisers for ALS.
RH: Yes, they both have been. You know this, but you have two amazing boys.
FG: Stephen would sell pictures, and Paul would sing and be involved with that. They had such a special dad. He was such a special husband too. We had forty-four wonderful years.
RH: And the good news is that you know you’ll see him again. I know it’s got to be hard sometimes missing him. But that’s always the thing that, as Christians, we know we’ll see our loved ones again.
FG: Isn’t that right? That’s the assurance that we have in God.