Black Press file photo

COLUMN: A true Christmas story

Columnist ML Burke relates a tale of childhood yuletide wonder

By ML Burke

We used to get big-snow winters and 1957 was one of those. I was 12 and spent much of my spare time looking after seven nieces and nephews. Considering we lived at the very top of Capitol Hill in Burnaby, 670 feet above sea level, it challenged dad getting the family car all the way home before Al and his grater could plow the bus route.

Our home was a bit unusual in that it was on a couple of acres and was half home and half laboratory, including three outbuildings surrounding a large driveway. Dad was a radio/electronics man and chose to build there for the good radio reception. The lab employed six technicians who were like family, frequenting our kitchen for coffee, lunch breaks, and entertaining mom with their tall tales.

During some of these big-snow winters dad would compensate Al the grater-man with a hot lunch, grandma’s sweetbread and rum-spiked hot-toddies in exchange for plowing our block and driveway. This resulted in 15-foot high snow banks, which became neighbourhood caves and fortresses for snowball-wars and, best of all, after a couple of days of garden hose flooding, a well-used skating rink.

With mom being Finnish and dad being English, we celebrated both the Scandinavian and Canadian traditions, which was almost like having two Christmases. Christmas Eve involved aunts, uncles, cousins and guests who all contributed delectable dishes. Mom would cook a ham and the requisite lye-soaked lutefisk, mercifully camouflaged with an egg sauce, which any potential new members of the family had to try or risk being abandoned at the alter.

After dinner on this particular crisp Christmas Eve, around 50 of us got all bundled up and trekked through the narrow snow-path to our aunt’s house for dessert. The kids were very excited because everyone under 12 got to open one present.

On our way, there was much laughing and questions about Santa and how he could get to every child’s home in the world in just one night, when dad, who was leading the family pack, suddenly stopped. He hushed everybody and pointed up to the eastern sky.

Silent, following his finger, there was one star amongst all the others, very high. It was moving and flashing. Blip, blip, blip, blip. A young voice shouted out, “Santa!”

Dad immediately responded, saying, “By golly, I think you’re right. That must be Rudolf’s nose flashing”. Well, you can just imagine the excitement that ensued: kids jumping, shouting, pointing; adults laughing, looking at each other quizzically, others standing, looking up, dumbstruck as the magic slowly disappeared over the western horizon.

That Christmas Eve in 1957 is my most memorable. I learned later that Sputnik 1 had been launched just two months before. It had four antennas emitting radio signals that pulsed every second. I’m sure dad had an idea of when it would be traversing our part of the sky. He never did admit to it, for the sake of the true believers, young and old. Sputnik or Saint Nick?

This believer wishes you and yours peace, wellness and affordability in the coming year.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey-based business wants customers to ‘Eat the Dishes’

New business plans to be one of the ongoing vendors at KPU’s new winter market

Surrey hunter fined $10,000 after shooting a bull moose and leaving it to die

The man was convicted for three Wildlife Act offences after shooting a bull moose not in season

Delta considering extending tax freeze, fee waiver for developers on Scott Road

The incentives are aimed at creating more diverse development in the area, says Delta’s city manager

Surrey RCMP asks for public’s help in finding missing 14-year-old

Police say Ali Al-Shai was last seen on Jan. 16

Tonight’s Surrey RCMP Classic final: Cloverdale and South Surrey school teams to battle

Elsewhere, Holy Cross boys team aims to win another BC Catholics championship on home court

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Lower Mainland-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

Most Read