……I just discovered The Daily Post at WordPress.com
I’ve been trying to hone my writing skills since I started blogging in April. One day before the writing challenge, Just Do It, came out I wrote one of my best pieces ever, so I’ve decided to reprint it for those of you who follow the writing challenges. I’ll try to write another two stories later today seeing that I’m already two days into the challenge and haven’t written anything since the challenge began.
The Best Christmas Present
It was December 24th, 1958. I was six years old. I remember that it was a frosty cold day and my mother was fretting because we still didn’t have our tree. In Germany it was traditional to put the tree up Christmas Eve but Mom had been in Canada long enough to know that trees were sold well in advance of the big day and that finding one at this late date would be challenging. My father, however, the complete optimist, reassured us that bringing home a tree today would not be a problem.
Early in the afternoon, Dad got into his big black Ford and left Mom, my sister and I to prepare the house for the arrival of Santa Claus. Hours passed and I remember my mother started to worry. There were no cell phones and stores were already closed. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity my father arrived with not one, but two trees.
My mother was aghast. What were we to do with two trees and two spindly trees at that? My father, again, reassured us that he had it all under control and disappeared into the basement with both trees in tow. For the next hour or so we heard the hand saw cut away at one of the trees and a hand drill bore holes into the other.
Weary and smiling from ear to ear, Dad emerged from the basement with a beautiful, full, and perfectly formed ‘Tannenbaum’. Christmas was looking up and we quickly adorned our new tree with glass ornaments that had been carefully brought over from Germany. The electric candles were meticulously arranged and then we were allowed to place the icicles on the lower branches while the adults worked on the upper ones.
Darkness came early as it always has on Christmas Eve and I remember the excitement I felt and the anticipation of hearing and maybe seeing Santa Claus come through the front door in an hour or so. When it was time my mother hurried us into our bedroom and sat with us while we waited for Santa’s arrival.
The knock was loud and resounding and my father opened the door to welcome our special guest. It was always the same greeting. “Ho, ho, ho!” while Santa noisily stamped the snow from his boots. The two men exchanged a few words, loud enough so that we could hear through the door and then as quickly as he arrived, Santa left.
My father called for us to come out and see what Santa had left us. It was always magical walking into the living room at that particular moment in time. The candles were lit for the first time, the rest of the lights in the house were dimmed and lo and behold the base of the tree was miraculously laden with beautifully wrapped gifts that hadn’t been there 20 minutes earlier.
Our tradition was always to sing a few Carols before opening our gifts. I wrung my hands as I dutifully sang and my little sister stood next to me with her cheeks flushed, partially due to the excitement and the late hour. The one present I remember both of receiving that night were matching life-size baby dolls. I named mine Barbara. Unbeknownst to us, the best present was yet to arrive.
Our next door neighbours dutifully arrived soon after all our gifts had been opened and we were hustled off to bed with our new ‘babies’. Little did we know that my parents’ friends were there to babysit us while my mom and dad drove to the hospital. It’s funny how I have no recollection of my mother even being pregnant and I certainly had no clue that she had been in labour that entire day.
The rest of the story is how I remember it being retold by my mother and father.
After putting us to bed, with her little suitcase in hand, my mother got into the car with my father at the wheel and sped off to the hospital. At the time we lived in Oakville and my mother’s doctor worked out of a hospital in Toronto. The fastest way to get there was via the expressway.
Before I continue with my story I need preface it with a little more information about my father. My father has always been a very carefree and spontaneous sort of fellow. He was a hard worker and provided for his family but his judgement about certain things was not always prudent. One of those things was how far he could travel on a tank of gas. That said let me continue with my story.
It must have been close to 11:00 at night when the unspeakable happened. In the middle of the QEW the car ran out of gas. I guess after driving around all afternoon looking for a tree my father forgot how much gas he used. Remember this was a time when everything was closed on Christmas Eve and 24 hour gas stations did not exist. I can’t imagine what my mother was thinking as her contractions were getting closer and closer. This baby was coming quickly.
Over the years as I remember this story I can’t believe that my father got out of the car and left my mom by the side of the highway while he looked for a gas station. As luck would have it my father managed to find an open service station and bought enough gas to get them to the hospital. My parents arrived minutes before midnight and about 10 minutes later my sister was born.
The next morning, on Christmas Day, I remember my sister and I climbing into bed with my father where he gave us the news of our new sister. Each year on this day I fondly remember the events that led up to this special day and the birth of my sister….my best childhood Christmas present, ever. Love you Cathy!
Wishing all my loyal readers and followers and my family and friends a very special holiday season, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or Diwali. May you all have special memories to cherish and share.
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