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Many years ago when I was a Western University student I volunteered my spare time at the Protestant Orphans’ Home on Richmond Street. I still remember the two storey gray building that housed 50-75 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 who was 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 fun 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 train rides that cost a nickle a trip around Springbank Park. A day away from the home to enjoy the park and simply feed the deer in their enclosures was a rare treat.

In the cold winter days we would walk to the sleigh hill behind St Joseph’s Hospital to enjoy many thrilling toboggan rides.

One Christmas day morning I received a call from Miss Green who had a dilemma that she hoped I could help with. One of the children, Linda, who was all of ten years of age was not picked up by her dad. Miss Green had made arrangements to travel by train to Toronto to spend Christmas with her relatives and needed someone that 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 the holidays. Off we went to my uncle Harry’s home for lunch along with some candy canes, Christmas cake and punch.

I called Johnny Downs, the proprietor of The Latin Quarter Restaurant to try and 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 Christmas Eve, 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, London Credit Jewelers store 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 ice cold Shirley Temple hit the spot. Ice cream cake covered with chocolate sauce for desert 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? As it turned out it was her best Christmas gift ever. 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 starry filled night with a coating of snow on the evergreens. Every one was there: Santa Clause and his reindeer along with his elves and the Nativity Scene seemed almost alive. We walked hand-in-hand around and around the park admiring the Christmas trees lights. Linda kept checking her watch to remind me that we still had lots of time before her curfew at eight.

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

I have often wondered what happened to Linda? I suspect that 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 a Happy New Year.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com