Johnny and Jackie, the twins next door, were never as lucky as I was. Their parents were also poor and no one cared what Christmas gifts they would get. There never was a big Christmas dinner, and especially not a Reveillon. Sometimes the older siblings (there were 12 kids in the family) would come back to visit their parents on Christmas and sometimes they wouldn't. On Christmas, the house was dirty, dark, and creepy, just like any other day of the year.
On the 23rd of December,1967, I was 11, and Johnny and Jackie were 12.
My grandmother asked the twins what they would be doing for Christmas.
She knew that there was no celebrations going on in their home but thought
that perhaps one of the older siblings would at least take the twins over to their place for Christmas.
"Who cares about Christmas anyhow? I am going to go to bed and sleep
until the 26th, and I can't wait until it's over," Johnny responded.
Jackie, on the other hand, surprised us when she said that she was in a
Christmas pageant that very evening at school. And here she was,
approximately three hours before the pageant, standing in front of us with
dirty stringy hair. She couldn't even take a bath because they did not have a working bathtub.
The water pipes had never been connected in the bathroom.The family simply used the bathtub as a storage area for dirty clothes.
"Do you have a nice dress for the pageant?" my grandmother asked.
Jackie sheepishly looked down at herself and responded. "I will just wear
The dress that she was wearing was an old, faded, grubby looking green
dress that was about two sizes too big and hung on her like a potato sack. One of her older siblings had left it behind when she moved out.
Then Jackie said happily, "Ma did buy me a pair of new green knee socks to go with it."
There was no way that child could be sent to a Christmas pageant looking
like that! First of all my grandmother sent her down to her own grandmother's to take a bath. She told her to tell her grandmother to wash and fix her hair. Then upon returning she would figure out what to do about a proper dress.
Jackie came back only 20 minutes later.
"You are ready already?" my grandmother asked.
"Sure," said Jackie, "I had a bath and my grandmother washed and did my
What her grandmother had done was to braid one side of the hair, leaving
the other in a ponytail. What a pitiful sight!
My grandmother pulled it all out again. She brushed and pulled Jackie's
hair up into a bun, which was very fashionable at the time.
Now it was time to solve the dilemma about the dress. My grandmother
decided to look through my clothes, which were of course all clean and
hanging up ready to wear, to see what she could find.
As she was looking I shouted out, "What about the beautiful new blue
dress that I am getting for Christmas? It would fit her perfectly."
After I had blurted out that juicy piece of information, I just knew that I was really in big trouble now.
"Young lady, how do you know you are getting a blue dress for Christmas
when it is still wrapped up under the Christmas tree?" my grandmother asked.
She caught me. She knew that I had been peeking. I can tell you after that
blunder the Christmas presents were never left out in plain view until we got up at midnight (December 25th morning) to open them.
However, regarding the current situation, she didn't wait for my answer
and just said to me, "Are you sure you want to lend her that dress, you haven't even worn it yet and you have to wear it yourself Christmas Day?"
I'm sure I said, "You can just wash it. You always wash my new clothes
before I wear them anyhow."
That night Jackie looked like a princess. She wore the new blue dress, and
a new pair of my knee socks because the ones her mother bought her were not the right colour. She had my good dress up shoes on, her hair was tied up in a bun, and she was wearing my pink nail polish. Jackie was beautiful and she knew it, too.
She came back from the pageant all bubbly and excited. She gave
us the whole rundown on what went on from beginning to end, but most of her conversation was centered around how many compliments she had received on how beautiful she looked.
That night Jackie was transformed from Cinderella into a princess and as
for me, well I was just happy that I didn't get into trouble for peeking at the