Life Memory Lane

The Best Present I Never Got

I grew up in a foster home, and like many other foster children, we didn’t receive many presents. Every year, we were reminded of the many children who didn’t receive any presents at all. My foster parents were forever telling us that we should be grateful for what we had, because there were so many people who had less, and some who had nothing.

When Christmas time came, my foster sister and I were always excited. This was the only time we were allowed candies and sweets, a time when all of our foster relatives came by and we played music and danced and laughed. It was such a joyous occasion! It was also the only time we got any toys and books. I thought I was getting a doll one year, because I’d seen my dad making a very small cradle, and my mom had been sewing tiny little clothes – much too small for even a baby.

Christmas Eve came and like every other year, we went to the church hall to join in the mass and the party that followed. Santa would sit at the front of the room, and give out presents to each of the children. I found out many years later that the parents brought the presents to the hall, and Santa would just call out the names on the presents.

This particular year, we were all assembled in the hall after mass, even the Evans family, who were the poorest family in town. They had no heat in their house, and we’d seen them at our school many times without any food for their lunch.

One by one the children’s names were called and we walked up to the front and got our presents then returned to our seats. When all the presents were handed out, Santa yelled out “Merry Christmas to All” and then left to go to wherever they’d hid his reindeer. But wait! Santa made a mistake – he didn’t give any presents to the Evans children. Just as I was thinking that, my mother called out loudly, “There’s been some kind of mistake; these presents aren’t for my daughters, they’re supposed to be for the Evans girls”. Then she took the presents out of our hands and handed them to the Evans children. I couldn’t believe it! How could she take our presents away? We cried all the way home. This was the worst Christmas ever! When we got home, we were still crying as we walked into the house.

“I’ve had enough of that”, my dad sternly said. “Go up to your rooms right this minute and get into bed”.

We were washed and in bed, still crying when my mom came into the room. She knelt down beside our bed, and said softly, “I know you’re upset, but you have so much to be thankful for, you have our house to live in, and you’ve never gone hungry. There’ll always be next Christmas for you, but that poor Evans family has nothing. Your gift to them will give those children hope and will mean so much more to them. This is the truest Christmas gift you can ever give, and you should feel proud of yourself.

After she left the room, we laid there in the dark, thinking about what she said. It took awhile for us to get over feeling sorry for ourselves, and then a peaceful feeling came over us.

I slept better that night than any time before, because I had truly felt the spirit of Christmas.

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I’ve been watching/reading with so much pride, the peaceful Franco-Ontarians demonstrations across the country! So many people don’t consider me French-Canadian, but look at my name for Heaven’s sake! Only a French person would give a child this name. The fact that I no longer (yes – no longer) speak French is exactly why the rights of French-Canadians MUST be protected.

I know there are many people (usually non-French speaking) who don’t understand, so I’ll explain what formed my beliefs in two ways:

  • The official languages of Canada are English and French, which “have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada,” according to Canada’s constitution.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not – this is different from a law to protect the language. Laws can be repealed. This is part of the Constitution – we are a bilingual country, French and English. No sitting government has the right to amend the constitution and we should not stand quietly by just because you didn’t agree with it anyway. Next time it may be YOUR rights; and you will have already opened the door and set precedence. When the constitutional agreement was made, there were promises to protect the language. We, as a society, should never go back on our promises. A deal is a deal, even if in the future we decide we no longer like the deal. If I sell my house for $500,000 and in ten years it’s worth $700,000, I can’t go back and say, that didn’t work out the way I expected, I want a new deal and more money. The only time a deal can be changed is if BOTH parties agree to change it.

  • There’s a benefit to being a bilingual country. Not everyone learns every official language, but those who do greatly benefit. Learning French for example, opens the door to all of the Latin based languages, such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese.

Here are some other multilingual countries:

  • In Austria, the official languages are German, Slovene (official in Carinthia), Croatian and Hungarian (official in Burgenland)
  • In Finland, both Finnish and Swedish are taught
  • In Belgium, Dutch, French, and German are taught

My biological father was from Thedford Mines, Quebec. My biological mother was from Cochrane, Ontario. The Chartrand family who raised me is all throughout Northern Ontario – branching out of New Liskeard, Ontario. My foster mother was born in Hearst, Ontario.

There’s a feeling that comes over me whenever I drive north. I was born in Toronto so it isn’t a call back to my birthplace. I told a friend about it once and she said “Because it’s in your blood.” And I realized it must be so because whenever I’m driving north and I see the granite walls that line the highway, I am filled with awe. I see the landscape before me – majestic and beautiful. The mist over the treetops is more beautiful than any photograph could ever capture; the snow tipped trees – a white sparkling wonderland and the pristine, blue lakes, more breathtaking than a postcard. I drive through it all and I am filled with peace.

The people there speak French and their rights matter.

I sincerely hope that at least one person finds something in what I’ve written that compels them to stand with all French-Ontarians and all Canadians, to protect our Constitutional rights.

#franco-ontarien #solidarité

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