The Ghost of Christmas Past

By: Anne Corke

Dec 17 2011

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Category: Life stories

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Christmas time always brings back fond memories of my own childhood Christmases. My Christmases Past were much simpler than today’s. Most families had three or four kids and mothers stayed home to look after their kids while fathers went out to work. No “Double Income No Kids” families back then. And so at Christmas, there was usually just one large present and a few small ones. I’m afraid I was one of those nosy kids who, given the opportunity, would examine and shake every box in hopes of identifying it’s contents. Consequently presents had to be securely wrapped (preferably in a double layer of paper so I couldn’t read through it!) and hidden well away from my prying eyes. The presents didn’t appear under the tree ’til Christmas night after I was in bed. But in the days leading up to Christmas, I would tiptoe about the house searching for this year’s hiding place. And once located, my undercover investigation would commence.

I knew I could count on receiving a book as one of my presents since our whole family loved to read (I still love getting books for Christmas). It was easy enough to locate the book. The question was, which book? Thus the need for the double wrapping! And there would also be the  traditional Christmas confections. My favourites were the pastel coloured French creams which only appeared at Christmas time, but I loved the chocolate coins, too. And the big gift? Well, it might be a cuddly teddy bear or a puppet or perhaps a building toy (Mini Bricks, Lincoln Logs or Tinkertoy – no Lego back in those days of yore!).  As I grew a bit older and as the presents, and I, became more sophisticated (?), I also became more devious. And one Christmas, I decided I would not only locate my big present, but I would actually unwrap it, take a peek, then rewrap it neatly so no one would suspect anything (who am I kidding, my mother always knew what I was up to!). One day when everyone was busy, I quietly crept into the closet where the presents were hidden. I found my gift and very carefully unwrapped it. It was a beautiful shiny black jewellery box with Japanese designs accented with mother-of-pearl. I was thrilled but I gave it only a cursory examination before rewrapping it as I didn’t want to be found out. I discovered though, much to my chagrin, that the excitement of that immediate gratification meant that, come Christmas morning, there was no surprise for poor little me. I had to act surprised even though I knew what I was getting. The magic was gone. I was so disappointed that I never again cheated and opened my present early. As my mother would say, “It’s better to travel than to arrive.” Now I finally understood what she meant.

And speaking of my dear mother, we all know that it’s better to give than to receive, and an unexpected gift for Mum proved that saying true. My mother once mentioned to me that she wished that she had a diamond wedding band to wear with her plain band. But times were tough and jewellery was a luxury. That Christmas season, I told Dad about her wish. Acting as his accomplice, I stealthily removed her engagement ring from her jewellery box one evening. The next day, we took it to a jeweller and selected a diamond band to match. The ring was returned without suspicion. That Christmas, all the kids were home, a wonderful present in itself for Mum. But the crowning moment of the day was the look of happy surprise on her face when she opened that little box from the jewellers. It was a moment that I’ll always remember. And if anyone deserved such a special gift, it was my Mum, who always seemed to do without for the benefit of her family.

And so, in the spirit of the season, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases. May you be surrounded by the love of family and friends, and may you have health and happiness in the New Year. And remember, no peeking! Now, where did I put those French creams?

Copyright 2011 Anne Corke

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