By Marlysse Trampf
Special to the Chronicle
Christmas is a time for family, food and forgiveness, and for Tomas Trampf, it truly was.
Tomas grew up in Chateauguay, a suburb of Montreal in the late 1970s in a traditional German household. And some of his best childhood memories come from the Christmas season.
“Christmas was the highlight of my year, it would all start a couple of weeks before; me and my mother would set up our exceptionally ugly Christmas tree, while listening to Mario Lanza,” Tomas recalls. The tree consisted of a broom handle with holes drilled in it where they would stick wires covered in tinsel and green plastic needles.
“Now that I have my own family, I always get a real tree; I will never ever buy a fake Christmas tree” Thomas says, laughing.
After winter break started, Tomas would do whatever it took to try to keep his mind off Christmas; he’d go skating with the neighbourhood boys on the Chateauguay River, or trek through orchards to get to the biggest hill for tobogganing.
“It was so cold that we would have to put Vaseline on our faces to keep them from freezing, it was at least -10 (degrees Celsius) everyday,” he says.
On Christmas Eve, Thomas and his parents, Irma and Warner, would have a light dinner of potato salad weisswurst, then go to church for midnight mass.
“When we got home from mass, I would always get a shot of brandy, my mother’s way of making sure I was put right to sleep.”
Christmas Day was the main event. Tomas would be shooed out of the house to go tobogganing, so his mother could cook until three; that’s when family started to arrive.
“Looking back I don’t know how we all fit in the family room, there was me, mom, dad, Baba, Barbara, Klaus, Hanz, Richard, Kristina, and of course all their dates,” Tomas says with a smile. “It was the seventies, so everyone was smoking as well, I remember it would get so hazy I couldn’t see the light!”
When it came time to hand out presents, Tomas, being the youngest, handed them all out – one of his favourite part about Christmas. This took a while with so many people; the tower of presents seemed to touch the ceiling. However, because he handed out all the gifts, Tomas was the last to open his, something he dreaded, as all eyes were on him, forcing him to feign excitement over the socks and underwear he’d inevitably get from his mother.
Tomas received many gifts over the years, but a few still stand out today. He recalls his father getting him a beautiful wooden toboggan, with a special reinforced seat he had made. That day, when Tomas went to try it out, he crashed the toboggan into a tree, wrecking the curl on the front. He was heartbroken, but the next day Tomas found it back under the tree, the curl rebuilt, this time made of stainless steel.
Another year, Tomas was being particularly bratty, and he woke up one Christmas morning to find that Santa had taken back all his gifts, leaving only a stick.
“My favourite gift I ever received was in 1979 from my brother, Richard. It was a reel to reel and speakers. I remember seeing the blood drain out of my father’s face, and rightly so because I blasted AC/DC on that thing for the next four years,” chortled Tomas.
“Looking back at 52, I was extremely lucky to have such a loving family, and I hope that I have created similar memories of joy with my children. Christmas is a time to set aside your differences and come together with people from all walks of life and be kind, and I am so fortunate that my parents imparted these sentiments on me.”