FOR THE HOLIDAYS
1956 - A Lasting Gift
Richard Hughes Liddell
Issue#20- December-January 2001-01
I was a kid, our alleys were dungeons and Dragons." They were ideal
for playing cowboys and Indians, or cops and robbers. On Christmas
mornings they were the perfect place to burn Christmas giftwrap
and boxes. In 1961 I burned all of the above, along with a ten-dollar
bill given to me by my Aunt Helen.
the summer, we collected butterflies, ladybugs and grasshoppers,
picked raspberries from Mr. Calhouns garden and apples from
the Bondys tree. It was a place to sit and talk to your dog,
or to be alone and cry if your world had momentarily fallen apart,
or to listen for the shrill horn of the sheeny man as he steered
his horse and wagon along in pursuit of old junk and rags.
alley marked the 55-yard line in our football scrimmages between
two vacant lots and was home-run territory for our baseball
games. It was a place to play basketball by the hour with John Mahon
and Brian McCabe and Bill Millar.
live in suburbia now; there is not an alley to be found in this
vast urban sprawl. The subdivision developers decided that alleys
create a massive land waste and therefore are no longer including
them in their postage-stamp-sized lots.
one particular day in 1956, December 22 to be exact, the alley provided
me with a convenient way to leave my street without any of my friends
spotting me wearing my galoshes. I was taking mans best friend,
Frisky, out for his nightly walk; because of the snow, Mom had forced
me to put those hated rubber monstrosities on over my shoes.
the alley, Frisky and I crossed Kildare Road stopping on the boulevard,
which divided it.
wonderful grass and tree covered areas running down the middle of
Ypres and Kildare Road were possibly a romantic idea brought back
from France by some Windsor soldier. But to the kids in the area,
they were much more.
were where children congregated to play before the street lights
came on; where high school kids met after dark to talk, laugh, and
discuss the problems of the day.
was one stretch of grass under a maple tree on Ypres that had the
texture of plush carpet. Often, I would remove my shoes and socks
to feel that wonderful sensation between my toes, thinking that
someday, when I own a home, Ill transplant some of this grass
to my own backyard. My beautiful patch of grass is no more, but
no matter. If I close my eyes and think back, I can still feel that
wonderful carpet between my toes.
way through our walk, Frisky let out a low growl, her normal warning
that strangers were near. I looked around, but saw nothing in the
stillness except for the marvellous falling snow. Large, white,
wet flakes slowly descended from the heavens and the serenity of
the moment seemed to hold the world in slow motion.
second warning broke the spell. "Whats the matter, girl?"
I inquired, at the same time beginning to discern what was stimulating
her. The distant sounds of music teased my ears and then quickly
faded. We continued walking while the sweet sounds wafted toward
up Somme Road towards Memorial park, the music grew stronger. We
crossed Chilver, Windermere and Lincoln and it grew closer still.
Frisky tugged hard on the leash as we arrived at Gladstone. The
snow was starting to really come down and a warm wind had churned
things up, but there was no doubt we were near the source of music.
park lay before us. I squinted north toward Ypres but could see
nothing. As I turned south, the driving snow parted and my "Pied
Piper" came into view. Ahead under the glow of a street lamp, stood
a Salvation Army band with carollers crooning "O Holy Night; O,
and I followed the chorus for over an hour that night and several
of my friends joined in when they too heard the music. At one point
I looked down at my feet and realized that I had been standing with
my friends with those ugly galoshes on. Then I noticed Don Brown
and Allan Chapman wearing similar boots!
snow was over six inches deep by then and I hated to admit it, but
once again, my mother was right!
on your knees
hear the angel voices
night when Christ was born!
night, O Holy Night, O Night Divine!