A Christmas Childhood Story

Written by Beverly Walker

(Parishioner at St. John’s)

A CHRISTMAS CHILDHOOD STORY

             Christmas, a season anticipated by children with such excitement, urged on by the Santas in every mall and Christmas decorations appearing almost the instant that Hallowe’en is passed. The time when those with families shop anxiously for the perfect gifts with dread lest they not have the money to afford the expenses called for by the season and its expectations. It’s the season when we remember to love one another and greet friend, family and stranger alike, with the wish of a Merry Christmas. It is also the season of disappointment, of loneliness and of hunger. It’s a season that brings such a dichotomy of thoughts and emotions that it is a wonder we still celebrate it.

            I mention children anticipating the season with such excitement and because it perhaps has a bearing on my thoughts at Christmas, I will tell a story from my childhood.

            When I was four years old, we moved, critters and all, to a farm in Manitoba. It was late fall when we moved and settling in and getting to be known in our new community took time. Mother was a musician of great talent, playing both the violin and piano and when this fact became known she was asked to play for the school Christmas concert – lead the carol sing and play for the pupils’ little entertainments at this event. It was a little one room school with grades from one to nine and some fifteen pupils in all. My brothers had been enrolled in the school and as soon as work on the farm permitted had begun to attend classes there.

            Parents were asked to bring a wrapped and tagged gift for each pupil as there was to be a Santa Claus who would give them out along with a little bag of treats – it was mid-World War II so treats were scarce and really anticipated with excitement.

            I had slept for a lot of the evening’s events, curled up on father’s lap, but when Santa arrived with many ‘ho! ho! ho’s’ and the jingle of harness bells, I awoke. Santa began to pull packages from his great sack and as the name was called, that child went up and was asked what they wanted for Christmas and given their gift. I, of course, was wide eyed at this. One of my brothers went up and got his gift – a pair of mittens made, although I didn’t know it then, by grandma. Then more children were called and as I watched, Santa’s sack emptied. Even little children who didn’t go to school yet, had been called to come up for a gift from Santa.

My growing disappointment must have shown on my face. Children are not good at hiding their feelings. Mother, sitting on the piano bench, was looking a bit concerned and glancing at me from time to time. I knew that I was behaving so my response to her looks was to sit even quieter on father’s lap.

The village storekeeper’s wife noticed this little by-play and spoke to her husband, who left his seat and disappeared from her side.

All the gifts had been given out and now it was time to sing more carols. I remember trying not to cry, as I looked at the gifts my brothers had received – the mittens for one a book for the other – and the little bags of candy they had been given. After the carol singing the lunch that had been set out on tables at the back of the school, was served meaning the evening was coming to an end. Santa had left with a great jingle of his bells and a wave. I could do nothing but turn my face into father’s shoulder.

Just as people were gathering their coats to leave, Santa could be heard clomping and jingling back into the school. “Is there a little girl named Beverly here?” he called from the doorway. “I found this package with her name on it in the bottom of my sleigh. It must have fallen from my sack.” He waved a brightly wrapped parcel in the air.

Father carried me over and Santa put the package in my hands along with a little bag of candy.

I still have the doll. She’s a bit saggy and her hair is all frizzed, but to me she is a reminder of the love we give at Christmas – the love that doesn’t even let one child be left out. And that is what I wish for Christmas, that we not leave out even one child of our community for we are all children of God and we should all know that love that God gave us by the birth of his Son, whose birthday we celebrate.

            Merry Christmas to all – looking forward to wishing it to you in person at church on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day.