Let me tell you a story, possibly a Christmas story since involves buying a Christmas present, but not just any Christmas present. Now before you from your esteemed position of age and education dismiss the concept of nick-knacks imagine yourself an eight-year-old with an allowance of 25 ¢ a week and the magic of shiny objects. Now I don't expect you to see Rembrandt and Blue Mountain Pottery as objects of equal value but then you are not an eight-year-old with an allowance of 25 ¢ a week and no the difference between Pictures in books and a glorious green dolphin in a store window.
Nick knack patty wack give a dog a bone? What does that actually mean?
It's the Saturday before Christmas and... let's call him Joe, who has been saving 5 ¢ a week for what seems forever has counted his money and put it in his purple velvet marble bag and has his older brother's last years winter coat on because his doesn't fit anymore. But that's just the same old story, not this one. It's winter but not that cold but I guess you already guested this since I said it was a story about a Christmas present. Now its Saturday and Joe has saved 52 nickles and knew that was how much he needed but didn't really about taxes other then that they were extra, he hopes a dime a nickel and three pennies was enough extra.
The trick about keeping a secret in a house full of people but if if you can save 52 nickles in your marble bag (under the marbles) you can do most things. For example fry and egg for breakfast and clean up after before anybody else was out of bed. Stores don't open until 9 o clock and its only 7:30, Eight-year-olds know how to tell time, save nickels fry eggs and. That what he did while waiting to leave for the store. He cut the middle button off his new hand me down winter coat and sewed it back on an inch away from where it had been. There is a tape measure in his mother's sewing box and he knew how to measure things and sew. This wasn't bragging and boasting ( that was a sin or he least he thought it was in the bible so must be) it was just telling it like it was.
Have you seen Flipper on TV, if so you know what a dolphin is, but do you know what a Blue Mountain is? He didn't he just knew that dolphin was beautiful and he knew his mother would like it. It would have to be dusted but since he did the dusting he didn't mind. Last year he and his sister bought a cut glass butter dish, it took some convincing since he knew if you broke glass you could be cut so the idea of buying broken glass seemed stupid, but he got to pick the prettiest. Yes, seven-year-old boys did know pretty and eight-year-old boys knew beautiful. Don't even think it, sissy is just a pointless word and you know what they say about Sticks and Stones and I am rubber you are glue. Enough about that.
Now Joe like going into Stewart's to look a the cut glass, figurines and silverware and since he was “Well behaved” the people that worked there talked to him about the different things in the store like he was a grown-up. He stood slack-jawed in front of the dolphin when he saw it. The lady showing it to him smiled and he remembered his manners and said: “thank you”. He saw the price and quietly counted the money in his pocket rattled the coins in his pocket. He hated math but knew his Five Times Table and Christmas was last year so the next one was a long time away. He asked the woman who was showing it to him how much he should pay her to keep it for him. ( he had heard grown-ups say that so he thought he might as well give it a try)
In response to that, she walked over to the counter and brought out a small note and said “ I have to ask you a few questions, how much is your allowance?” “Twenty-five cents a week, That's a dollar a month,” “ Thank you” then she wrote something down, the asked “How much money do you have now” Joe reached in his pocket and brought out one quarter, one nickel and four pennies (the pennies he had found down behind a pillow on the couch) She counted out the nickel and for pennies and wrote something down then showed Joe the paper. And told him he would have to save a nickel a week and he could bring it in the week before Christmas. Then she took a sticker and wrote “On Hold” on it and walked back to the window where the dolphin was on display and picked it up. She put the sticker on the bottom and placed it back in the window. She smiled and said that way other people could still see it, but it would not be sold.
Canada was going to be One Hundred years old the next year and many of Joe's friends were talking about EXPO, which sounded exciting but not as exciting as Joe thought Christmas was going to be. It was the Saturday before Christmas and it was now time to go pick up the dolphin. He had made his own wrapping paper at school the week before and it was folded it up in his coat pocket. It was getting late and nobody was up yet. He knew he wasn't to go downtown without some older, a brother, a sister but he didn't want them to know about the dolphin and he knew if he walked along the tracks (something else he knew he wasn't supposed to do but did all the time) he could take the short cut and be downtown fast enough to be at Stewart's when it opened, faster if there was ice on the hill. So he set off with his wrapping paper in one pocket and his purple velvet marble bag (minus the marbles, they were in a sock) under his pillow) in the other.
I was still kind of dark and the street lights were still on. There are no street lights along the tracks or on the back road, but the sun was coming up so that was OK. Moving the button on his coat made it fit funny but made it warmer and with scarf mitts ( still on a string through his sleeves) and toque on he went out the backdoor. Scamppy and Clancy (dog and cat) just looked at him without getting out of the basket. (they knew better then to go out in the snow if they didn't have to) it was cold and the snow crunched as he walked around the house to the street. Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas was running through his head, then Frosty the Snowman, then Adeste Fideles which he was singing out loud and didn't realize it, He knew all the words in whatever language it was in. He knew lots of songs from being in the church choir in languages he didn't know he just liked singing them.
A car slowed down and honked, the window rolled down and Mrs. MacDonald asked if I, I mean he wanted a ride. He said “No Thanks, but maybe on the way home” He knew they were going to the A and P because that's what they did every Saturday morning, “Does your mother know where you are going?” “Yes,” he lied. A white lie he could confess next Friday. He turned the corner the car continued going straight. This was a complication he would deal with later. Now since he had walked this way he was going to have to stop on the bridge and wait for the 8:20 train to come under the bridge because it was that time and that's what you did “Good King Went sis loss looked down on the feast of Steven” and here it comes. Years later looking back he was amazed he had spent a fifth of his annual income on a gift for his mother and income she provided. He also realized the woman in the store must have made up the difference, but now all that was on Joe's mind was when he should spit so it would land on the porch of the caboose. That's what you did when you stood on the bridge watching trains go under it.
Onward down the hill and it was ice, sliding down on your back was always the safest way to slide down any hill and nobody ever shoveled their sidewalks on the hill simply because they had kids and every kid in town went there to slide. But that's... You buy your dad a tie, you buy your mom a butter dish, salt and pepper shakers, handkerchiefs or some ghastly Eau de toilette. When your five or six and your dad took you shopping for a gift for your mom and vice versa. But when you are seven you should take responsibility for buying your mom a gift. That is what Joe was doing did.
While some may consider Blue Mountain Pottery a joke many thought it not One-Fifth of a kid's yearly income would not be spent on a joke. A kid might buy sea monkeys, X-ray Specs yes but for themselves. Itching and sneezing powder and Mexican jumping beans, even a Venus Fly Trap for a pet, but not for their mothers. As the Open sign was being turned at Stewart's a proudly grinning Joe was standing in the doorway. They greeted him with Good Mornings and welcome, Joe turned to the window and with surprise saw a bowl where the dolphin had been. Hearing “We have your package here” brought a wave of relief preventing the water rising to his eyes from spilling over. With dignity, he went to the counter seeing open box. Inside it was tissue paper on top of the glistening green running into black dolphin lay on its side he stroked its cool smoothness. He smiled. He reached into one pocket bringing out the purple velvet marble bag and gently set it on the counter. Then he reached in his pocket and brought out a dime nickel and three pennies, then opened the bag and began to count the fifty-two nickles into stacks of five ( ten might fall over and break the glass countertop.)
The paper from last year was brought out and the cash was counted again and the box closed. “That is right, this is how much we wrote down You have been very prompt” As she started to put the box in a bag Joe brought out the wrapping paper and said “I made this” “Oh would you like me to wrap the box?” “yes please” within minutes it was wrapped and she asked if I wanted a ribbon it comes with the purchase” “Yes Please” the smile in his voice growing. At that moment. the door opened and Mrs. MacDonald stepped in. She smiled and asked if Joe if he was ready. This was a bit too much of a coincident for an eight-year-old to figure out, he was just happy he didn't have to walk home. It was alright sliding down the high hill, but walking up the long hill took days. Well an hour at least so a ride in the MacDonald's Studebaker was always useful and something that he got to do every Sunday after church. While they were driving up the hill Mrs MacDonald asked Joe if he would like her to keep the dolphin at their house until Christmas eve?
You could have knocked him over with a feather. She noticed his surprise and went on to say “I thought I would buy it but Barbara said you were buying it on time for your mother. We were watching for you this morning I didn't want you catching a cold this close to Christmas.” The MacDonald's had taken a liking to Joe when he joined the church choir and took it upon themselves to drive him to or from Church and always had “a treat” for him on Sundays, usually a box full of finger sandwiches enough for the family for lunch (or Joe's lunches for a week. Ham, chicken. Tuna and egg salad sandwiches, some times in the shape of the different suits in a deck of cards Hearts, Diamond, Club and Spades and sometimes with different coloured bread. Strange but delicious and seldom appreciated lunch was often grilled cheese. But that is not what this story was about
the end … to be continued.