No gift for Christmas

No gift for Christmas

Growing up in Cowichan in the 50s, we farm families didn’t realize how poor we really were.

By Joy Glover Sheldon

We were very poor. But, growing up in Cowichan in the 50s, we farm families didn’t realize how poor we really were.

Everybody had fruit trees and grew large gardens to stretch the scant food dollars. We kids (my younger brother and I ) didn’t think it strange to have only three pairs of shoes to do us for a couple of years — one pair of black rubber boots for school, one pair of “Sunday School” oxfords, and a pair of 49 cent “thongs” (flip-flops) for the summer. When the thongs were wrecked, we went barefoot.

And I wasn’t too resentful about the fact that my mother was an invalid. Of Alberta Cree and Scots descent, she still, in her 50s, had the high cheekbones and long, raven black hair which made her considered a beauty. And every morning, before catching the school bus, I had to brush and braid that long hair.

However, there was one thing I was a bit resentful about — my birthday. It fell, unfortunately, on New Year’s Eve. So, I was used to getting one ‘large’ gift on Christmas that was supposed to be a Christmas/birthday gift. I particularly treasured one gift I had received. I was 13 and had been asking my Dad for a dollie with real Saran (combable) hair for as long as I could remember.

Providentially, my kindly uncle John was visiting from Vancouver that year. He and my dad split the cost of the special doll — $6! How I coveted that doll, always replacing it carefully in its box after each hair styling. However I usually resented the fact that my brother (born in March) always received two annual gifts while I, only one.

But, in September of my Grade 12 year, my beautiful mother died. We grieved. And by end-November we were feeling additional effects of poverty. My father explained to us that he was no longer receiving the monthly ‘cripples’ pension for my mother. Thus, our monthly budget had to be reduced by over $100 per month (a lot of money in those days). We kids feared a bleak Christmas.

However, we could axe down our usual tree from the forest of Mount Prevost behind us. Dad could butcher a retired broodie hen if he couldn’t afford a turkey. I despaired of getting a combined gift. But, being optimistic youngsters, we each hung up one of Dad’s old work socks. We strung the tree with Mom’s well-used decorations from the 30s.

The next morning, our stockings held the usual Japanese orange in the toe, a pair of socks for school, and some ribbon candy courtesy of a surprise Christmas hamper a Duncan charity had provided. I didn’t expect a major gift nor did I see one. However, when my birthday morning rolled around, hope renewed. I thought there was just a chance someone might come up with something for my birthday.

Bedtime came and I, disheartened, prepared to slink off to my room. Suddenly, my Dad came over to me, his hand behind his back. My brother stood behind him, smirking slyly. Dad told me to hold out my hand. In it, he placed a small, white box. It contained a single strand of fake pearls nestled on plain cotton batting.

My joy knew no bounds. Dad had saved pennies from the grocery money for a couple of months and bought the necklace at our only five and dime store for 69 cents. To me, it was worth more than if every pearl had been authentic.

Joy lives in Ladysmith and is a member of the B.C. Writers’ Federation. This is an excerpt from a manuscript, Cowichan Kid, that she is hoping to have published.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sahtlam Volunteer Firefighters Association has stepped up, in spite of COVID, for a number of charities. (Submitted)
Sahtlam firefighters step up

Sahtlam Volunteer Firefighters Association has a long history of supporting charities

A mobile home fire prompted a quick response from firefighters Saturday around 3:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Mobile home up in flames at Duncan RV Park

One patient burned, EHS on scene

Phaecelia used as a cover crop attracts bees and provides them with high quality nectar. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Cover crops keep soil healthy and productive

We don’t harvest a cover crop and instead dig the tops under when they’re immature and soft

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Home is where you know your neighbours

My mom has lived at that address for 43 years.

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ in Metchosin

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read