When I was little, my Dad read this rhyme to me as my bedtime story of choice from Halloween until Easter. Even though I didn’t know what a sugar plum was, but they sure sounded delicious. Years later, I found out they don’t’ have plums in them but are hard sugary candies shaped like plums. All the same, they’re a yummy Christmas treat.
Candy canes are another treat associated with Christmas. Accordingly, custom has it that, in 1670, the choir master of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany had “sweet stick” candies shaped like a cane made to keep the children quiet during the long Living Creche (Nativity) service on Christmas Eve. Candy canes have been associated with Christmas ever since. There is no other season more associated with candy than Christmas.
I slumbered in bed for a while half asleep. The glint of sunshine through my bedroom window and its warm caress on my face was a wonderful feeling, and I sighed deeply nestling down into the covers. But gradually the sleep wore off, and with a yawn and stretch, found myself in my sleeping bag lying on a fold-up cot borrowed from Lawson’s next door. It was then I remembered dismantling my bed yesterday afternoon, and with that thought came the realization that today was moving day. What’s the time? I wondered reaching out to consult my wristwatch sitting on an overturned cardboard box makeshift bedside table. Nine thirty-five. I’ve overslept. I’d better get going the movers will be here in less than two hours.
Thinking of the few things left to be done before they come I probably had just enough time to get it all done. All the same it was great not having been woken up by that alarm. Then after pausing for a moment I advised myself, “Well maybe you should start by getting out of bed”. Unzipping the bag without delay I climbed out and proceeded to get myself ready. My last shower in this house would not be a leisurely one. After dressing I had some decisions to make. “First, sort out the few things to go in the car.” I muttered to myself, “OK then, number one, dismantle the computer and find some place for it in the there. Really there’s too much stuff in the car already. Right now a laptop would be much more convenient. No, hold on, first check my E-mail, then…”
Time to check out the new Robin’s at John and Fredericks. When I get there, it looks like any Robin’s from the outside. Inside looks like all the other Robin’s I’ve been in before, too. The same colours, the same counter, the same tables and chairs, the employees are wearing the same uniforms, and above all, the same selection of donuts. Makes me wonder why I wanted to see the newest Robin’s in town.
But, there must be something different about this Robin’s that sets it apart from all the others. Well, the counter is sort of in a different spot, the washrooms have a neatly finished entrance way to them and the tables seem to be placed in a cozier arrangement.
As I sit with my coffee looking around, I begin to notice the people at the other tables. Friends and neighbours from nearby that have come here to meet for some conversation and enjoy each other’s company. I realized then that, what is sets this Robin’s apart, is not the furniture or the colour of paint on the walls, but the community that surrounds it.
John and I met during a course we were both taking at Lakehead University and we became good friends over the next 11 years. Eventually John decided to leave Thunder Bay to move closer to his roots in Southern Ontario and we now seldom talk. But the comradery we shared over those years kindled a friendship that I know will last a lifetime. John was keenly interested in botany, especially flowering plants. These were followed closely by birds. John was an avid bird watcher. Next was the natural world in general. I can’t say I shared his enthusiasm for any of these, but it was the naturalist in John that would get us both into an interesting and afterwards a somewhat amusing situation.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse …”
I’m sure everyone can recite this story at least in part and no doubt reciting even just the first verse of this classic brings a smile to everyone’s face. To me and I am certain many others, this story, above any other, brings back warm childhood memories of the magic of Christmas. My Dad recounted many times having read “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” every night as my bedtime story of choice from Hallow’een till Easter when I was small. Although I didn’t know what sugar plums were and never thought to ask, they sure sounded delicious. And even though I didn’t know what an elf was or had never seen a mouse in our house it really didn’t matter because that timeless rhyme would cast its spell every night. I guess that’s why I can still recall it almost in its entirety even though I haven’t read it for many years.
Thinking back to when I was eight years old or so, one of the people who would influence my life from then until my late teens was a man named Pat Donohue. He was a lanky, six foot two gentleman who, to my sister and I, stood as tall as a tree. Pat immigrated to then Port Arthur, Ontario in the early 1960’s with his friend Paddy Doyle from their native Ireland. When I first met them, Paddy managed the Safeway store on Court St., and Pat as well, who managed the dairy department there.
I have received some very nice Christmas presents over the years. But the presents I remember most fondly are from my childhood and one in particular stands out as I recount the years. It was 1969, I was ten, and the excitement of ripping the wrapping paper off a gift pulled out from under the tree was still very much a part of Christmas.
July of that year had seen Apollo 11 roar from the launch pad and the dramatic first lunar landing. I had avidly followed the all the Apollo missions with wonder and awe dreaming maybe one day I too could blast off into space, a dream I still have today. Like my friends I was at the age where gluing plastic models together was my hobby of choice. Model airplanes, helicopters, ships and cars all vied for space atop my bedroom dresser. But that Christmas there was only one thing on my list and that was a model of a Saturn 5 rocket identical to the one that had blasted off from Cape Canaveral that summer. It stood nearly four feet tall, almost as tall as I was at the time. The third stage had a window so you could see the lunar lander inside just as it would have been in the real rocket and you could take it out and extend its movable legs so it could sit on your desk just like it did on the moon – cool! It was the ultimate, and that far above anything else was what I wanted for Christmas.