Mrs. Pullyblank just glares us into complete silence and clomps over to where the Queen looks down on us kids every single day from her large framed picture, placed front and centre above the blackboard, and Mrs. P. writes in fancy letters: The Grade Five Christmas Gift Exchange.
Finally, it comes time to draw the names out of the special Santa hat, and I have this special feeling. It may be Christmas, or it may be love, but I know – I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will pull Julie Miller’s name out of that hat.
But I can’t believe it. The paper clearly says Doris Hickey, and although I am in a state of severe shock, I am positive that is not how you spell Julie Miller.
Mrs. P. announces that we are to individually begin our work on the Christmas Gift Exchange Project.
And that’s when I find the walnut.
It’s in one of the craft boxes and right away it reminds me of a turtle shell, and I suddenly get inspired. I figure out that my gift will be a turtle.
I carefully break the walnut in half, clean out the half shell, and then I make little Plasticine turtle feet, and a head and a tail sticking out from under the shell.
And I glue a safety pin on the bottom, on account of the fact girls like to wear precious things to show them off and stuff.
And then I remembered Huckleberry Hound. I had gotten it a few months back out of a box of Lucky Elephant Pink Candy Popcorn; a small, square 3-D picture of Huckleberry Hound.
I glue it on the walnut turtle’s back. Perfect.
I can’t believe the look on Doris Hickey’s face when she opens the Huckleberry Hound walnut turtle broach.
I don’t think I’d ever seen anybody so happy over something made out of a nut before. And she sort of looks over at me and can’t stop smiling.
Later, when Dad and I made our yearly Christmas Eve trip to Clowes Jewellers downtown to pick out a last-minute gift for Mom, I saw something that made a difference for me that Christmas and for all the Christmases to come.
A bundled-up family of four hurried happily in the door, and when they brushed by us, I caught a glimpse of something familiar. She didn’t see me, but it was Doris Hickey with her family, and what I saw was on the lapel of her coat.
That Huckleberry Hound walnut turtle was proudly pinned in a place of honour on her coat.
I guess that moment froze in time for me, and taught me something that would stay with me always. It taught me how good giving feels, and it can make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s just a small difference.
And I realized that making a difference for someone is what Christmas is all about.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.