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About 50 years ago, when I was a University of Western Ontario student, I volunteered my spare time at the Protestant Orphans' Home on Richmond St. near where St. Joseph's hospital is today.

I still remember the two-storey grey building that housed 50 to 75 youngsters who ranged in age from toddlers to their teens.

They were not orphans per se: The vast majority had a parent or two who, because of life's circumstances, were not able to provide proper care for their children.

Miss Florence Green was the matron in charge of a group of women who, although not trained, did their best for the children in their care.

I would usually drop over on Saturday afternoon to play a game of touch football or hide and seek in the back of the home. No playground equipment or splash pad was included for the children.

Sometimes I would pack my car with a group of happy kids for a picnic lunch and miniature train rides that cost a nickel a trip around Springbank Park. A day away from the home to enjoy the park and feed the deer in their enclosures was a rare treat.

On cold winter days, we would walk to the sleigh hill behind St. Joseph's Hospital to enjoy many thrilling tumbles.

One Christmas Day about 7 a.m., I received a call from Miss Green. who had a dilemma with which she hoped I could help. One of the children, Linda, who was all of 10 years old, had not been picked up by her dad. Miss Green had made arrangements to travel by train to Toronto to spend Christmas Day with her relatives and she needed someone she trusted to take care of Linda.

I made my way over to the home and found Linda quietly crying in the office. She was all dressed up for Christmas but felt abandoned. Every other child had been picked up to enjoy Christmas Day.

We made our way over to my Uncle Harry's home, which was adorned with a beautiful Christmas decorations, to enjoy a delicious lunch there.

I called Johnny Downs, proprietor of the Latin Quarter Restaurant, to try to reserve a table for Christmas dinner. At the time, his restaurant was known as the epicurean delight for Londoners. Johnny reminded me that it was his busiest day of the year and there was absolutely no room. I explained my dilemma and he found a table for us.

I nearly forgot that I hadn't purchased a Christmas present for my dinner date. Off we drove to my dad's store, London Credit Jewellers, to pick up a Bulova watch. I did my best to wrap my gift in Christmas paper and off we went to dine.

Turkey dinner with pudding and cranberries, washed down with a champagne glass of an ice-cold Shirley Temple, hit the spot. Ice-cream cake covered with chocolate sauce for dessert and my little girl was stuffed.

Linda opened her present to find a magic timepiece and tried it on for size. How did I know that she would start crying? Johnny, the ultimate good host, refused to take my money.

We drove over to Victoria Park to take in the lights. It was a cold star-filled night that added to the sparkle of the Christmas lights. We walked hand in hand around and around the park admiring the trees, the Nativity scene, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus and his reindeer. Linda kept checking her watch to remind me that we still had lots of time before her curfew at 8 p.m.

For me my Christmas Day with Linda was the most memorable of all my Christmases past. Memories are made up of not what we receive but what we give.

I have often wondered what happened to Linda. I suspect she had children of her own and now is probably a grandmother. I wanted her to know that of my many memories of Christmas that my day with her was most meaningful.

Merry Christmas and happy new year from me and my wife, Ella.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com