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By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
When are we making the gift tags, Gran?” I asked as soon as she walked in the door, Dad close behind laden with her luggage. “Did you bring last year’s Christmas cards with you? I have ours all ready. Can we start right now?” Gran laughed. “Not tonight, Jo.”
She was tired. I could tell when she was tired. That’s when she called me Jo, after her late daughter, Josephine, the aunt who died tragically years before I was born. In November. It was a month of sad memories for Gran. So, we all tried extra hard to cheer her up, keeping her busy with preparations for Christmas. It was only a month away. And Gran loved Christmas, especially the preparations.
“Okay,” I said wistfully. I decided not to correct her as I had in the past. I reached for her and gave her a big hug. That did the trick. She perked up after the hug. “Tomorrow after school?” “That would be fine, dear.”
A visit with Gran was always filled with excitement. Lots of conversation and lots of activities shared. It didn’t matter if Gran visited our house for a week or two, or I visited Gran in Simcoe, either by myself for a few days or with the family for a meal and a visit, time with Gran was quality time at its best.
I was thrilled to hear that Gran was coming to visit. Especially leading up to Christmas. There was so much to get ready. So much to plan. Gran loved Christmas and her excitement was contagious. When she made her monthly visit in November, I knew what we would be doing. It was a tradition, after all.
True to her word, Gran was ready for me after school the following day. She had all the old Christmas cards laid out on the dining room table, along with colourful construction paper and a stapler.
“I’ll be right there, Gran,” I called as I ran upstairs to retrieve the Christmas cards I had received from friends the previous year. I had a few, not as many as Gran and my parents, but it would certainly add to the collection and variety of gift tags. There was a lot of gift-giving in my family, everyone exchanged a gift and every gift needed a tag. Plus, Gran liked to make extra to package up and sell at her church’s annual Christmas bazaar.
I was in the dining room in a flash, dumping my cards on the already large pile of cards waiting to be cut up with the zigzag scissor Mom used in her sewing room. “What do you call these again, Gran?” I asked, picking up the special scissors. “Pinking shears.” “Why? There’s nothing pink about them.” Gran laughed. “It kind of looks like a sawtooth blade, doesn’t it?” “A what?” Gran laughed again. Picking up a card, she handed it to me. “Some of the cards have writing on the back of the picture, so we won’t be able to use those. And some cards, like this one, have enough blank card on the inside to make a good backing. We won’t have to use too many sheets of construction paper if we’re careful.” “Recycling at its best, right Gran?” I had just finished a project on pollution and was keen to share my knowledge, especially about the benefits of recycling. “We always did recycle things. Nothing was put to waste unless there was nothing left that was useful in one way or another.” We chatted on about this and that, cutting and stapling, creating a huge pile of gift tags.
After about an hour’s work, the last card was cut. Mom came in to see how we were doing. “Just about ready to tidy up,” Gran announced. “Look at all the gift tags we made.” I was pointed at the huge pile. “Good work, ladies.” Mom walked over and ruffled the top of my head. “How about tossing these tags in the box. You can help Gran sort them tomorrow. We’ll have plenty to use here and she’ll have plenty to sell at her bazaar.” “What do we do with the scraps of paper and cut-up cards?” “Toss them into the fireplace. We’ll burn them this weekend when it gets really cold.”
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novel, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: A Piccadilly Street Story”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca