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.

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

Just Posted

UPDATED: Surrey RCMP make multiple arrests after reports of fight in Newton

Huge police response to reports of fight, possibly a gun, in the area of 82nd Avenue east of Scott Road

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

Panorama Ridge Secondary reports third COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Surrey youth protest throne speech as part of Global Day of Action

Group marched to Liberal MP Randeep Sarai’s constituency office

White Rock writer in running for $6,000 accolade

Joseph Kakwinokanasum to learn Oct. 1 if his story, Ray Says, wins CBC Nonfiction Prize

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read