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Ted Markle: Counting on Christmas

Part of the toy collection being generated by a local group of Toyota truck owners for the Christmas Index program.
Part of the toy collection being generated by a local group of Toyota truck owners for the Christmas Index program.

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness. – Bob Hope

Ted Markle

As we Christmas shop for the kids, Sue and I endeavour to keep holiday spending equal across the board.

When they were youngsters, it was simple and straightforward – the same number of gifts regardless of investment. As presents were unwrapped, Simon would sit in the corner keeping count with his abacus.

These days, it’s the actual dollars that matter. The children hire KPMG to study receipts and ensure equity.

I don’t judge them for these calculations. I totally get it. When I was a boy, it was much the same for my siblings and me.

My mother, no matter our family squabbles or state of finances, always knew how to keep Christmas. Her force of will shines this time of year. We may have been tiptoeing upon eggshells, with wolves at the door to collect overdue bills, but nothing would get in the way of her family’s festivities.

Decorations filled the home, gifts were numerous and, just like my children, we were hyper-vigilant over the fairness of it all.

One Christmas morning, while my father treated his Yuletide headache with some hair of the dog, we settled into position around the tree – presents sprawled around the living room. Some had already been partially unwrapped by Gretchen, the oddball dog, who, when faced with wintry chills or drifts of snow preferred to do her business under my sister’s bed. How’s that for a lump of coal in your stocking?

Mother made sure that on top of a great number of small packages – whose pleasure was more in the mad ecstasy of the unwrap than the content, each child was sure to receive a bigger bounty – one meaty present that would be the standout of the season.

For my older sister, appropriate for her non-conforming spirit, it was a collection of obscure LP’s. My brother would receive a gift that would today provoke calls to Children’s Aid – a lovely crossbow, complete with razor-sharp arrows. For my younger sister, it was a hand-decorated, three-storey dollhouse.

I opened the last present tagged for me (the climax of my haul) with nervous optimism. The soft texture hinted at clothing. Could it be at last my longed-for #14 Dave Keon Maple Leafs sweater??? I stopped breathing momentarily as I tore open the wrapping paper and gazed upon eight pairs of jockey underwear – powder blue.

Desperately trying to stop the pre-sob twitching in my face, I slowly rose and shuffled toward the stairs to retreat to the bedroom I shared with my brother. There I would weep in solitude at my mistreatment.

As I opened the door, I saw my father standing and smiling (a stubby of Labatt’s 50 in his hand). My brother was kneeling on the floor, having just connected the last piece of track in a Lionel “O” scale electric train set.

This was quite the shock, for up to that point in my life, my brother had yet to do anything nice for me. My suspicion quickly gave way to pure Christmas joy. I wiped away my tears of self-pity and within minutes my tin train was occupied by plastic army men plotting violent collisions and derailings.

No Christmas recollection can compare.

Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at ted.markle@tc.tc. – Twitter : @tedmarkle

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