Christmas Brings the Best Family Present Ever


By Gretta Barclay

It was the coldest of winters that year and Christmas Eve came to the Conlan clan with howling winds and snow on the ground.

It had been a hectic time for our family without the full attention of our mother, who loved holidays and parties. One of her favorite activities was to decorate the house at Christmas time, to deck the halls.

This year, she had not even sat down at the piano to play Christmas carols with all of us gathered around to sing along. It was a different year, and a very different feeling permeated our household.

We had help in the house but it wasn’t the same; mother always showed us how to wrap our presents and tie the bows so that the presents under the tree looked like art. But, mother was clearly tired this year, and she looked wan and worried.

We had not even gone to the Krohn conservatory to see the live creche where Mary and Joseph sat among live animals and waited for their baby to arrive --which is just what mother was doing that Christmas Eve.

Mother herself was heavy with child, carrying our youngest sister, christine helen, to arrive on Christmas morning.

Mother wanted to see all of us open our christmas presents before she went off to the hospital, and I can still see her sitting in our vast hallway on an antique velvet chair, small packed suitcase at her side, hat and coat on.She was delighting in the sounds of surprise, excitement and joy on the faces of her six children who were going to open their presents for the first time ever on Christmas Eve.

From the basement, a shiny black, three-speed bike came up for me, with the help of my two brothers, and I was in awe.

I was unaware of the real treasure in the room with us, but not yet visible or known to us.

After the last gift was unwrapped that Christmas Eve, dad carefully walked mother to the family station wagon in the driveway and all of us waved good-bye to her.

We then ripped into our toys and played without interruption until it was bedtime.

No jingle bells rang from our rooftop that night, a tradition every year; and no one set cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer. Santa had already been to our house, but he had not brought the best present of all….our sister Christine who came home with mother from the hospital a week later.

Art by Mo

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