The weather outside wasn’t exactly frightful, but early December in a tent in an Ontario field was a long way from the Inverness-shire estate house where I’d lived before coming to Canada.
I was seven years old, and before leaving Scotland I had complained to my mother about the lady who tucked me in at night. “Please tell her to stop,” I pleaded. Mother always smiled, and said she would do her best.
When my aunts, Isa and Molly, came to visit, Isa simply refused to stay another night. Molly (as she told me years later) demanded: “Jean, what’s going on here? Someone tucked me in at 2 a.m.”
As usual, Mother smiled and feigned ignorance.
Old habits are, they say, hard to break. Nanny, the old family retainer, had tucked the Maxwell children into their beds for decades. Presumably, she just couldn’t resist the urge.
The problem was, Nanny was dead.
To my relief, Nanny – despite her extraterrestrial talents – hadn’t immigrated to Canada with us.
However, I had a more pressing problem. Would Santa Claus find us?
The previous February, our TCA Super Constellation had ‘gone mechanical’ en route from Prestwick to Malton necessitating a night stop in Iceland. Mother and I had been billeted in a hangar.
Surely Father Christmas, as I knew him in Britain, lurked behind all the nearby snow.
By departure time he hadn’t shown up.
Mother assured me that Nanny was a thing of the past, and Christmas was yet to come.
New Canadian friends insisted we abandon the tent in Clarkson for the holidays and spend Christmas at their house in Oakville. On the magical eve, a radio announcer confirmed that ‘an unidentified sleigh-type object’ had been spotted in the northern night sky.
Santa arrived on cue.
Books were my passion, and there was no shortage of them.
That was also the year I discovered Santa delivered jewellery – a tiny silver signet ring.
Fast forward down the years to last week.
What, I asked my son, would Marley (my two-year-old Alberta granddaughter) like for Christmas?
“Books,” he said. “She loves books.”
So, she’s getting one – her very own best-seller.
Last year, I compiled Kaden’s Great Adventure for my 10-year-old grandson. It was a photo and text saga of our summer holiday together.
During his visit I’d hauled him off to the Surrey Museum, the Historic Stewart Farm, Science World, the Aviation Museum, the golf course, and shopped for his beloved space Lego.
His 15-year-old brother was particularly impressed. “Gran! You should publish this!”
[Clarkson, Ontario: Pioneering in the ‘bush’ with Mother, but minus Nanny.]
His mother laughed. “She just did! That’s it!”
“Would you like one?” I asked.
“Sure!” came the instant reply.
With that kind of reader feed-back (and thanks to the magic of e-coupons and on-line publishing houses) Santa will be delivering books for me again this Christmas.
In fact, to reassure myself, I flew to Iceland in October – just to be sure he’s still around.
– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a writer and photographer, and founding editor/publisher of the Cloverdale Reporter. She still believes in Santa Claus – and jewellery.