AS a child growing up on an Ontario farm, I recall Christmas as the day when everything was magical. Real life got suspended. The drudgery of daily chores gave way to sprints to the barn and brief spurts of frenzied work between long spells in the house filled with eating and exchanging gifts.
Breakfast consisted of as much ice cream as a child could eat. Later there would be rare luxuries like soda pop and oranges -- and an overflowing plate of candies that we could grab whenever we wanted.
Our stockings -- quite literally my mother's old nylons -- would stretch almost to the floor filled with goodies.
Presents would spill across the living room floor from underneath the tree, cut a few days earlier in our bush.
Best of all, the whole family -- eight of us in all -- would spend much of the day enjoying Santa's bounty, playing games with new toys, testing out new hockey sticks on our pond, wearing out a new deck of Old Maid cards, or just reading a new book.
Then, when I was 11, my family changed. My father died as the result of an accident in 1972.
An 11-year-old who loses his father has many fears, but my biggest one was that Christmas might disappear.
After all, just about everything else "normal" about family life had changed and it was clear even to an 11-year-old that there were new pressures and strains that could affect even the magic of Christmas.
Our family was the recipient of much generosity that year.
Farmers showed up en masse to plant our crops that spring, and then returned at harvest time, asking for nothing but directions to the fields. It was common for people to show up at the door with food.
My mother was not in a position to spend much on anything.
It must have taken a Herculean effort by her and my older siblings to do it, but somehow, on Christmas morning, the magic returned.
The family was together, presents spilled from underneath the tree, ice cream was in the freezer and the candy dish overflowed.
I have had many Christmases since then, many of them vastly different, but that one will always be most special for one reason -- I did not think it would happen.
I hate the thought of any child thinking that Christmas may not happen.
That's why supporting the Pennies from Heaven campaign is so important to me. The campaign supports the Christmas Cheer Board and Winnipeg Harvest, which both help make Christmas happen for so many families.
Our angels this week:
In memory of Stefan O. Olafson Janet and Robert Kollesavich George and Patricia Robb Judith Panasuk Dianne Stephenson Grace Curry Evelyn Wasylyshen Dorothy Pettit In memory of Gwen Wilcock M.S. Robinson M.G. Joyce Allen Patricia and Robert Hinther Dorothy Rasmussen Fred Forsyth Mary Kolaski Hilda and Charles Curtis Marlene and Otto Penner Nick Belinsky