58: The Best Present Ever

58: The Best Present Ever

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

The Best Present Ever

…I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow…

~Emily Brontë

Children living in Victoria, British Columbia, all share one dream in December. They see the weather reports of snow in other regions of Canada and dream of a white Christmas for themselves too.

The Christmas I turned ten I was one of those kids yearning for a white Christmas. But as Christmas approached, the forecast was for rain and more rain, so I focused instead on my three older brothers, who I was told were plotting something extra special for me under the tree. “The Boys,” as my mom referred to them, were whispering more, grinning more, and planning more than usual. Anytime I would enter a room a hush would come over the crew. Papers with drawings and sketches were quickly hidden away.

I pestered each of my brothers in the days leading up to Christmas. What was it to be? What could warrant all the extra intrigue and detailed preparation? Where were they keeping it? The Boys were at their best when they worked together. I could hardly wait for Christmas to come.

On Christmas Eve, after the gifts were spread under the boughs of our tree, I began to look for the gift of my dreams. There were many large boxes under the tree. Surely the best Christmas present ever would be big. I pretended to be admiring the lovely wrapping papers and pretty bows, all the while carrying out my reconnaissance. There were gifts with my name on the tag, but none from “The Boys.”

My attempts to be subtle in my search were abandoned. Efforts to locate the long awaited present turned into an all-out treasure hunt. Finally I spied a small package wrapped in plain paper. It was tucked way back under the tree. I reached back and grabbed the box. To Kyla, love The Boys. This was it.

It was not a heavy box. It was not a big box. It didn’t resemble anything I could imagine taking weeks to orchestrate. Whatever it was, it was now the object of my desire. I tucked it back again where I found it.

When Christmas morning finally arrived and everyone was awake, we were allowed to head down to the tree and begin opening our gifts. This year I led the way. I led the way straight to the back where my little box from The Boys was stashed. I paused for just a moment to take a breath. One has to prepare to open the best present ever.

I ripped off the paper and looked down at the box in my hands. I had anticipated this moment for weeks, and now here it was. All I could think about was how to keep my face from showing the depth of my disappointment.

In my hand I held a gift box of Life Savers candy. It was the kind of gift box that contained ten rolls of the treats in a case that looked like a book. It was the kind of present you got from your grandma when she came back from the airport in Brandon. It was not the best present ever.

“Thanks boys,” I managed to muster. “This is really cool.” My voice was so flat I almost didn’t recognize it myself.

In my hurry to reach the Christmas tree, I had not noticed that our front drapes were pulled shut, which was unusual. And now, as I tried to hide my disappointment, my mother had decided that it was important for me to open the curtains. I stood up and started to pull back the window coverings. That was when the light first caught my eye. It was white outside. Glistening. Crested. Snow. Snow on Christmas morning! Snow in Victoria! I worked to finish opening the drapes completely and shouted, “It snowed! It snowed!” But had it?

Our front lawn was completely covered in a blanket of fresh white snow. But our neighbour’s lawn was just as green as the day before. The treetops were still wet and green. The road had no sign of white. What was this miraculous weather pattern that had made ours the only home to get a snowfall?

Then I finally noticed the big paper sign in the middle of our yard. It was a handwritten banner with large lettering in red and green that said, “Merry Christmas, Kyla. Love, The Boys.”

Instead of going to sleep on Christmas Eve, my brothers had put their plan into action. They had borrowed my dad’s pickup truck and driven around the city to all the hockey arenas they could find. Out back of each rink, they worked with shovels to load up the ice and snow removed by the Zamboni in the process of cleaning the skating surfaces. They knew these large piles of icy snow, once relocated to our home, would work perfectly to deliver the desired effect as they were spread painstakingly, lovingly, across our huge front lawn. I can’t even begin to imagine how many loads it took to do the job. Every inch of our yard was covered.

I donned a pair of boots and quickly headed outside. The boys came too and helped me make a snowman. Walkers passed by, enjoying the odd sight of snow. Kids from down the block heard the news and soon arrived to play with us too. We had snowball fights, made ice sculptures, took pictures and played until our fingers hurt. It was every West Coast kid’s dream come true — a real white Christmas.

I have kids of my own now and they enjoy hearing me tell stories of growing up with “The Boys.” Each December, as we decorate our Christmas tree, we recall some of the best presents we have received over the years. Some gifts stand out in my memory more than others. I always recall the Christmas I opened that small box of Life Savers — the year my dream came true. It remains the only white Christmas I’ve ever had. It was simply the best present ever. A gift of love — from The Boys.

~Kyla G. Ward

Victoria, British Columbia

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