Christmas Eve 1961
Mother and I were traveling. Daddy had died the year before, and my sister Susan was accepted to a Canadian school in Switzerland for her 1st year of University.
Since mother was a young widow, she had decided that she would like to go to Europe too. She found a boarding school for me and off we went. I moved into the School, and mother moved into a local Pension. I went to school; she traveled. It was an exceptional year. We both had unforgettable experiences.
Winter break was three weeks long. Susan went to Spain with her school and Mother decided that she would take me skiing at some of the ski resorts in Europe. I had just started skiing, so her idea was fine with me. She had bought a German Ford, the Taunus, so when school got out, she picked me up in her little car, and off we drove. We headed south and west, up the Rhone valley from Lake Geneva.
Our first destination was to be Zermatt, a few hours away. A roommate and her family were going be there before Christmas, and we were to meet them at the Schweitzerhof Hotel. Since Zermatt is a car free village, the last leg is by train, and then you can walk or travel by sleigh to your destination.
We spent the days skiing the Gornergrat, I learned how to schuss and wedel. We spent the evenings sharing stories with other skiers, and socializing with the citizens of the world. My roommate and her family came and went. We moved into another hotel, a little farther from the center of town, and a little less expensive, the Europa Hotel. It was December 23rd. We would stay there through Christmas, and then go to our next Destination, St. Anton in Austria, for New Year’s Eve.
Traditions in Europe are different than they are in Canada. As we headed out for our Christmas Eve dinner, we realized that the family who owned the hotel were having their Christmas Celebration. The candles were lit on the Christmas Tree, they were opening gifts around the tree, and were singing. They knew one song associated with Canada, so they sang “Alouette”, and invited us to join them.
We were hungry, so we sang the one song, and headed out, each of us dressed in our best – mother wearing her furs; me in a simple cloth coat, new hair styles, and the glow of a winter tan on our faces from skiing.
A short distance downhill was the main thoroughfare. It was very quaint and covered in snow. We turned left and headed back toward the other hotel and the train station, this part of town was more familiar to us. As we walked we passed several wonderful looking restaurants. We noticed that one place that had been closed looked like it was open tonight, and after a few more steps, we decided that would be where we would dine. We turned around and walked up to the door.
The Maitre d’ greeted us warmly, and showed us to a lovely table, on the upper level, at the railing. He told us about the buffet, and asked what we would like to drink. He then left us to our server.
The wine flowed; the food was wonderful, fantastic music filled the air. This was a memorable meal, to be sure. We enjoyed the food, beverages, music and ambiance for about an hour. Then Mother motioned to our server, and said in her best French, “L’addition, s’il vous plait.” (The bill please)
The server’s face drained completely. You could see shock in his eyes. He raced away from the table and soon returned with the maître d’, who asked, “Excuse me, Madame was not a guest?” Now it was Mother wearing the shocked look. “No” she said meekly. The maître d’ was gentle and firm, as he quickly ushered us out of the restaurant, refusing to allow us to pay or tip before we left.
We left that evening with satiated appetites and a great story.
With Great Respect and Love,
Kelly McNelis Senegor
Founder, Women For One