Christmas in the Wolf household, circa late 1970s. (Lee Wolf photo)

What was the best Christmas present you ever received?

One gift stands above the others

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive all kinds of Christmas presents over the years.

Toys as a kid. Sports memorabilia as a teenager. Much-needed cash as a young adult. Heart-tugging, treasured, kid-made stuff as a Dad.

But one gift still remains atop that long list of presents I’ll always be grateful for.

Christmas ’87 was destined to be a difficult one. It was our first as a family after Mum passed away a couple of months before at the age of 44. To say she was the glue that held everything together would be a massive understatement. She was the centre of the universe.

To have Christmas, a time she always made seem so magical, so soon after her passing, wasn’t going to be easy.

I had done what I thought was a passable job with the old English stiff upper lip stuff, thanks primarily to the support of those around me. Remarkably, I even had a good dose of the usual yuletide spirit as the holiday approached. But all the pent-up sadness decided to release itself at once.

I was driving home from my girlfriend’s house, still feeling festive, travelling the route up the Malahat (to Duncan) I’d driven a zillion times. Windows down, freezing my holiday Brazil nuts off to make sure I stayed awake. When, for whatever reason, the reality of Christmas without Mum just ran over me like a Mack truck. Tears just started leaking uncontrollably, so bad I had to pull over. I sat there in the cold, quietly sobbing into the steering wheel, teeth chattering, missing my Mum and questioning the fairness of it all.

Then, suddenly, everything felt warm. I looked up and saw Mum, sitting in the passenger seat. I heard “I’m here. Everything’s going to be OK.”

And then, whoosh, she was gone.

I rubbed my eyes, looked all around and wondered what the heck had just happened. Whatever it was, real or imagined, I no longer felt upset and happily proceeded on my way.

Christmas morning, my Dad, sister and I did the usual gift-opening. It was obviously a little more subdued than usual, with the one most responsible for the magic not there in person.

The smiles and ‘thank-yous’ were genuine but muted. When we were all done, we silently began picking up all the wrapping paper.

“Wait,” said Dad. “There’s one more.”

He handed me a gift. I started opening it and instantly knew what it was.

Before she died, Mum had begun crocheting a blanket for me. She never finished it. Inside the wrapping paper was that blanket, completed. She had my Nana finish it, for me. Best Christmas present ever.

Well, now everyone’s crying. Big circle hug.

And any worries I had about Christmas without Mum were unfounded.

She was there.

VIFD managing editor Philip Wolf can be reached at philip.wolf@blackpress.ca

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