Christmas morning, 1960s, New Westminster

Tossing and turning, you lying top bunk, me down below

in our maple bunk beds in that small room of Robin’s egg blue

with the closet that I used to imagine dark

and crowded with monsters

after we’d waited, all night,

surely long enough,

time to get up.

We’d fling back the covers,

our first slip of toes on cold linoleum

and creep past mum and dad’s room

knowing to avoid the stairs that creaked.

As stealthy as robbers at midnight,

down to the first landing, then the next

and finally, that bottom step, and freedom.

Our excitement carried us like apparitions in the dawn towards the large living room

only awe slowing our tracks, and

all those shiny boxes, rearranged overnight

under the tree seemed to have grown,

like the snowbanks outside.

Santa was real after all.

He’d been true to his word.

Our neighbour, Mr. Jack, had been wrong,

Christmas hadn’t been cancelled like he’d teased us it had been leading up to the big day.

We’d tip toe to the adjoining dining room

a beautiful black iron fireplace, and brown

beams on the ceilings, and

turn to the family of felted stockings hanging from the white wooden mantle in front of that emerald green tiled hearth.

Your stocking red, mine green,

or was it the other way around?

We’d gingerly carry our treasures to that plush green velvet window seat

our skinny arms plunged in up to our crooked elbows,

spidery fingers digging into the tippy toe of the foot,

making sure we weren’t missing the smallest trinkets.

Always a mandarin, a candy cane, a chocolate of some sort

if my memory serves me correctly, and it may not.

A few other small things as well,

maybe a plastic pink mirror, a yo-yo, a small puzzle, a hot wheels for you.

We’d compare.

I recall few words,

whispery breath between

you and me, twin brother of mine,

until the light, a stronger grey, streamed in to announce the respectable side of morning.

Then mom and dad awake, down the stairs, in bathrobes, excited to relive our finds.

The kitchen table in the next room set from the night before.

Turkey talk, time and temperature and when to shove in the oven, and coffee, orange juice for us.

Then “the twins” – Joy and June, and finally Heather, always the last one down,

would join in for breakfast and

what I remember, most of all,

is that we’d be happier than we usually got around that table,

happier than we knew we were then.

The tone of coffee, the taste of eggs and bacon comfort

no walking on eggshells or wondering what might come next

like so many other times,

but not this day,

a shift in energy,

a relief,

the auspiciousness of togetherness.


on that 25th day

of the 12th month

in the 1960s

on the corner of Hamilton and 8th streets

in New Westminster, B.C.