Every year in mid-December, the memories come flooding back.
As I wander about the stores, looking for just the right presents (admittedly at this point, there’s a lot of gift cards) for my loved ones, I go back through my own mental Rolodex (that was a thing before cellphones, kids) and recall my own favourite gifts.
It’s a question I love to ask others as well, as several recent guests on our podcast can attest.
Inevitably, I always return to one.
It’s a story I’ve shared previously but am thrilled to offer again with new readers in my latest stop in PQB, since it represents more than just Christmas for me.
It was 1987. I was pretty much a kid.
And it was destined to be our most difficult Christmas ever.
Our first as a family after Mum succumbed to cancer a couple of months before. She was only 44. To say she was the glue that held everything together would be a massive understatement. She was the centre of our universe.
So to have Christmas, a time she always made seem so magical, so soon after her passing, just didn’t seem right.
Remarkably, I even had a good dose of the usual yuletide spirit as the holiday approached because I was still surrounded by love.
But then, it hit me.
I was driving home from a friend’s house, travelling up the Malahat to Duncan. Windows down, freezing my holiday Brazil nuts off to make sure I stayed awake.
For whatever reason, the reality of Christmas without Mum just ran over me like a steamroller.
Tears just started flowing uncontrollably, so badly I had to pull over. I sat there in the cold, quietly sobbing into the steering wheel, teeth chattering, missing my Mum and questioning the fairness of it all.
Then, suddenly, everything felt warm. I looked up and saw Mum, sitting in the passenger seat. I heard “I’m here. Everything’s going to be OK.”
And then, whoosh, she was gone.
I rubbed my eyes, looked all around and wondered what the heck had just happened.
My own Christmas miracle.
Whatever it was, real or imagined, I no longer felt upset and happily proceeded on my way.
Christmas morning, my Dad, sister and I did the usual gift-opening. It was definitely a little more subdued than usual, with the one most responsible for the magic not there in person.
The smiles and ‘thank-yous’ were genuine but muted. When we were all done, we silently began picking up all the wrapping paper.
“Wait,” said Dad. “There’s one more.”
He handed me a gift. I started opening it and instantly knew what it was. Before she died, Mum had begun crocheting a blanket for me to help her pass the time. She never finished it. Inside the wrapping paper was that blanket, completed. She had my Nana finish it, for me. Best Christmas present ever. Warmer than any electric blanket ever invented.
Well, now everyone’s crying. Group hug.
It wasn’t a Christmas without Mum after all.
She was there. She still is, every year.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!
PQB News/Vancouver Island Daily editor Philip Wolf can be reached via email @firstname.lastname@example.org.