Toronto – December 24, 1943 – Part 2

(Dodging Shells gave you Tommy’s letters to his sister, from the front. Kathy’s Christmas letter from Toronto continues, in response.)

…..On Saturday evening, Dad and I went out to buy a Christmas tree. They’re not so easy to find any more. Few farmers can afford the gas to truck them into the city, and the best ones are snapped up quickly.
…..“Make sure you get a good one,” Mom directed. As always.
…..“Pearl, why don’t you come with us?” Dad suggested. As always.
…..“Oh, no…I’m not going out in this cold! Just make sure it’s a good one.” Sound familiar?
…..So we went out to the only lot in the neighbourhood, and Dad stood patiently in the cold for about an hour and a half holding up tree after tree, showing side after side, while I criticised each one in turn.
…..“That one’s too skinny at the top…that’s too small…that one’s lop-sided…not that one. Wait, that one looks good…turn it around so I can see the back…oh no! That won’t do at all! Let’s see what they have around the side, there.”
Finally we found the finest tree left on the lot. But it was too tall. And the bottom branches were a little sparse.
…..“So,” Dad ventured, “if the bottom was cut off, the tree would be perfect.”
…..I agreed.
…..“And it would be the right size?”
…..I saw his point.
…..“Will your mother be satisfied with this one?”
…..“I doubt it. But it’s the best tree they’ve got. It’s a great tree!”
…..So we dragged the tree home, Dad cut off the objectionable bottom section before Mom could be offended by it, then he brought it in and I steadied it while he bolted it into the stand.
…..“It’s tilting too much,” Mom commented. As always. “No, towards the window. A little more…a little more. There! Are you sure that’s the best side? Turn it around a bit…oh, that’s better. Wait…from this angle, it’s tilting the other way.”
…..By this time, I had pine sap on my sweater sleeve. It was much more fun when you held the tree. And Mom still wonders why we bought a crooked one. She says it bends at the top.
…..It doesn’t.

…..The next day we pulled the decorations out of storage and trimmed the tree. After he installed the lights and draped a fresh popcorn wreath (I could have used your help on that one…what were you doing? Lolling about in the sun, no doubt.), Dad was content to watch while I did the rest. He would have just parked the decorations on any place at all, anyway, and I’d have to move every single one to a more attractive location. And Mom…well, Mom directed the show and provided the hot cocoa. By the time Dad perched the star on top, the tree looked like Christmas. It was beautiful. As always.
…..And yes, I made sure to put your favourite decoration on the tree…that shabby old gold tinsel twist you call a bow, with its ratty little red velvet ribbon. And even that looks good! It’s all in the positioning. You just have to find the right place for it. Somewhere at the back works best.

…..At eleven o’clock this morning, the entire employment office was sent down to the main floor to enjoy the annual Simpson’s Carol Sing. They stopped the escalators for the occasion, and the steps were studded with elevator operators, looking so smart in their uniforms – I used to love to be a part of that. The band played for an hour, and everyone was welcome to sing along, no matter how badly. And some special kind of Christmas magic made it all sound good.
…..When we got back up to the office, it had been transformed! Red and green streamers festooned the walls, with bells and stars, and Christmas music playing on a radio somewhere. There was a tree and poinsettias and a big wreath on the door.
…..And the feast! A table was laid out with punch and fancy sandwiches so pretty I hesitated to eat them…but not for long. There were petit fours and strawberries dipped in chocolate. And there was ice cream…but it was in the form of little men dressed in tuxedos, with tiny bow ties and everything. (And I thought I was doing well to wrestle shortbread into the shape of stars and wreaths!)
…..It was the very best that the Arcadian Court Restaurant upstairs provided for the outrageously rich…and our Manager had arranged it all for us!
…..It was a wonderful party. We laughed and sang and recognized the very best in each other – at least for a little while – and at two o’clock the Manager sent us all home for Christmas.
…..Before you ask, I thought of smuggling out some leftovers to pack for you…but the little men would have melted and made a mess of everything. I’ll send more toilet paper…but it doesn’t seem like much of a substitute, now that I see it written down.

…..We listened to Dickens’ Christmas Carol tonight on the radio, as always (you just can’t get enough of old Scrooge…am I right?), and it’ll soon be midnight. Mom and Dad are already asleep, but I’m just going to dash out and drop this in the mail box, then get to bed or Santa Claus will pass us by.

…..You should have been here, Tommy. I wish you had been here. Please take good care of yourself….

…..Oh…I forgot to mention that the ground is bare in Toronto and not a flake is falling, but I don’t mind. We’re economizing on snow this year to make sure there are white Christmases enough to go around when you get back home.
…..Until then, I’m sending my very best wishes…the shiny, bright ones from the top of the pile.
…..Merry Christmas, Tommy.

With lots of love and holiday hugs,


About Wendy Bertsch

I’m a Canadian author—a pragmatic optimist with rather eclectic interests and a pervasive sense of humour. Toronto born and bred, I live by the lake with a motley array of dogs and a cat, all but myself being of unknown origin, in a comfortable old house filled with books. Over a thousand books. Books in every nook and cranny. And now, since there can never be too many books, I'm writing more. Once More, From the Beginning highlights the women in the bible. It's about time! And believe me, they see things quite differently. And in Dodging Shells, you'll meet the irrepressible Tommy, as he fights his way through Italy in World War II. You'll love Tommy. I do. Next? Well, that's a secret yet. Stay tuned... I recently initiated the fledgling Ocean Highway Books, providing editing, formatting and cover design services to authors wishing to self-publish.
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