Skip to main content

The Christmas Bear

By Belinda
I shared my plans for the weekend celebration of Sinterklaas, over the phone, with Rob, my brother in England.
"Was that when our bears came?" he asked.
"Yes, it must have been!" I said, remembering an early December, 52 years ago, when he was 5 and I was 8.
A parcel the size of a shoebox arrived from Holland, sent by one of our Dutch aunts. Mum opened the precious parcel from her homeland, while Rob and I looked on in excitement. There were treasures lovingly tucked into every corner of the box, including two small teddy bears; one golden and one black.
The golden one became mine and I named him Rupert, because he looked just like Rupert the bear, whose adventures I loved to read about in the picture annuals that are still read by children in Britain. Rob's black bear had a hump on it's back, although I'm not sure why!
I still have Rupert. Along the way his golden fur wore off, and his eyes fell out. Being loved will do that to you, I guess, for he was well loved, and not just by me. He traveled across the ocean with us when we came to seek our fortune in Canada, and when a new generation of children were born into our family, he took on the role of special comforter when a child was sick in bed.
He still has that unique, strawy, old teddy bear smell and our children have told us that when we die they will probably fight over who gets Rupert.
The box that held the bears was fragrant with the mixture of spices unique to Dutch cookies. I tasted one that was so delicious and different to anything I had experienced that it imprinted itself on my young taste memory  intensely. For years as an adult I tried recipe after recipe trying to recapture the flavour, without ever quite getting it right. Eventually in a Dutch store I found myself standing in front of a shelf of large cookies baked into the shape of dolls. They were golden and spongy, and fragrant. The scent of ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, took me back to my childhood ecstacy--this was it! Tai tai! The words actually mean "tough tough," because the cookies are not crisp but chewy. At last I had found it.
I introduced it into our Sinterklaas celebrations over the years but each year I try something different from the Dutch store. This year, I didn't buy Tai Tai what with getting 109 chocolate letters and many pink foil wrapped bars of Fry's Turkish delight in deference to our English heritage too. With all that we had to eat, including chocolate letters and the heavily marzipanned Christmas cake my dear gluten intolerant daughter Brenda just wanted to know, "Where's the Tai Tai? You didn't get Tai Tai?!"
The contents of that little shoe box had an effect that continues to ripple down the generations of our family.


Julie said…
I remember to the anticpated parcel that would arrive from England, many times on time but sometimes after Christmas. Once it arrived on Christmas eve. Once the parcel arrived wrapped in brown paper it was put away until Christmas eve, then its contents would be taken out. I can still recall the look and the feel of the Christmas paper, placed under the tree I would look for it on Christmas morning. Those small packages always stood out, their contents always special to us.
Anonymous said…
that other ingredient for Tai Tai is Anise Seed. It wouldn't be Christmas for me without Tai Tai... and chocolate letters :)

Popular posts from this blog

Just Joy!

Our family has a standing date for Sunday dinner on the first Sunday of every month. Not that we don't see each other at any other time, but we all know that particular Sunday is pretty much for sure--and I look forward to it so much--the front door bursting open and our house being filled once more with the voices and vibrancy of six grandchildren and their parents. 

This week Spero, Brenda's new Australian Shepherd puppy came too, and met his extended family, leaving Molson at home to have a rest! He was duly adored by all of us.

He came with a dazzling array of toys and is proving a fast learner, already sitting on command and responding to Tori's training. I was so impressed at her technique of quickly rewarding a turnaround from any slight naughtiness with praise for "good sitting," or "good" any other desirable behaviour! 

Tippy had her hair cut stunningly and bravely short the day before; making a statement about who she is as a unique individual, o…

The Secret Adventures of Susan's Scottish Scarf

By Belinda (with a lot of help from Susan :))
I was saying goodnight to her at the front door this week when she told me. There was apparently more to the scarf around her neck than I knew. 
The scarf had been a gift from me for Susan's birthday on Tuesday December 18th. It had been her 60th; and that day I had treated her to lunch to celebrate. 
We met at a tiny restaurant, Port Soiree, in Schomberg,near her office. It was a restaurant neither of us had been to before and it turned out to be a gem, with artsy ambiance, amazing food, wonderful service and modest pricing. In other words, it was perfect!