Here it is Dec. 26, the day after an unprecedented Christmas 2020, and there’s that word again.
John asked me last night if I wanted to take a ride to the beach today, Boxing Day. Mackensie asked why we were going to the beach the day after Christmas?
That was our tradition, my Mom and me. On Boxing Day we would head off in my old rusty red Gremlin and drive right up our beautiful New Hampshire coastline. From the start of Hampton Beach, straight up that twisty road that allows us to drive “a stone's throw away” from our ocean to the border of Maine.
Did you know that our New Hampshire coast is the shortest in the United States? Pretty neat when you think of it. The shortest at around 18 miles along Route 1A. Seems like that beautiful road should have a different name, something like Sea Breeze Avenue, or even Rocky Way! Anyway, we always headed out early in the morning, dad would stay home and enjoy his puzzles, radio, and a break from us.
Always about halfway through our drive Mom and I would be starving for lunch. I think it was because we would drive extra slow along the ocean. For us even though we had driven that road thousands of times, its beauty in storms or sunshine always felt as though it was the very first time we were seeing it.
Back then nothing was open on Boxing Day. We would be hopeful driving along that maybe just this one year a little fish shanty would be open by the sea for us to have lunch. Our goal was always to share good old steamed clams together with lots of hot broth and melted butter. I can picture them so clearly.
Just thinking about how differently we all do things now. Mom and I would have never thought of bringing water bottles or snacks in the car in case we got thirsty or hungry along the way. Now we hardly leave the house unless we have some type of water bottle or drink by our side. Not something we did back then. Also, many places and stores are open the day after Christmas now.
It would never fail, but we would make it all the way up to Portsmouth, which didn’t have all of the great restaurants it does now, and nothing would be open, just like the year before.
The one place we could always count on though was a little bus stop on the main street that had booths and lunch items that would be good enough to fill our bellies.
I think we loved that nothing else was open along the way and that we would be one of the few cars on the road along the coast the day after Christmas.
Mom always said that Boxing Day was a Canadian tradition, and that’s what we always believed. Remember my Mom grew up on the island of Newfoundland, Canada, with 12 brothers and sisters (16 total but four died early in childhood).
Newfoundland was part of England until 1949, that’s when it became a Canadian providence and my Mom’s family went from being English to Canadians. Pretty wild when you think of it now.
My grandfather, James Manning, was a fisherman, and they made their living in very small boats called dories. Mom’s white house that held all those people was right across from the Atlantic Ocean.
Only a dirt road, which now is paved, separated the two. I remember waking up in one bed where three or four of us would sleep, watching wild horses running down the street and back up into the hills where they lived. What a great uncomplicated way to live.
I have to thank John Goglia, another one of those heroes behind the scenes who tries to help wherever he and his wife Judy can. Just last week he came by the office to give me a book we had talked about, "The Day The World Came to Town."
It is all about Newfoundland and 9/11 by Jim Defede. Thirty-eight commercial planes were forced to land immediately, and the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, welcomed and cared for 6,595 passengers, when their town had only a little over 10,000 residents.
Being a Newfoundlander is a different way to grow up and live. Neighbors helped and depended on each other. Doors were opened at all times of the day.
My grandma always had a kettle of tea and fresh homemade bread waiting in the small kitchen, just in case someone stopped by. There was even a day bed in the kitchen in case they needed a rest.
Some say, “the willingness to help others is arguably the single most important trait that defines them as Newfoundlanders.” Boy, do I wish I had talked to my Mom more about all of this now.
As I researched Boxing Day, I discovered that it started as an English holiday, the second day of Christmas. (I bet a “Newfie” started it!) How beautiful is this, it started as a day for us to give gifts to the poor.
Maybe a day to not think about our own immediate families and neighbors but to reach deeper beyond our own comfort zones and help others in need, that we may not even know.
So many of us make it a point to help others the month or so before Christmas Day, but what if we all did just a little more once the main celebration was over. Think of the good we can and could do.
I guess the articles also go on to say that now it’s become more of an extra shopping day. Kind of sad, but maybe we can bring Boxing Day back in full force and even let it linger a few extra days or weeks longer.
Maybe we could extend Boxing Day through to Old Christmas or what some call Little Christmas on Jan. 6. Imagine the good we could do for others! Together we can start our own tradition.
If you would like to join in with me, there is a family that needs our help. Mary Jane Stone, who grew up right in our area, lost her husband Bob unexpectedly just before Christmas. They had been together 20 years and have three beautiful children — their son, just 9, and two daughters, ages 15 and 18. Bob and Mary Jane didn’t have much, but they had each other to lean on through the years.
Their daughters started a GoFundMe page almost immediately, because they didn’t know how else to help their mom. Every little amount can make a huge difference. Please go to the GoFundMe "Help the Arrigo Family" page. You can contact me too at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Helping Bob’s family is one way we can honor and continue the Newfoundland tradition of Boxing Day.
Sherry Farrell is the Londonderry Town Clerk and a longtime resident of New Hampshire.