The very first Christmas present that I ever bought was a tree-topper angel ornament for my mother, a ceramic cherub of sorts holding a banner that said "Gloria". Christmas for children is often about trying to be good, to produce a present-winning performance. I was never very good at "normal". I did not play house or want to get married and my Barbie doll was a spy named Honey West whose cover story was that she was a bartender. A fur toy, an octopus that I dubbed "Alaska", was her assistant who ran the bar when she went off on adventure-filled missions. Those pose-able eight arms came in handy.
Growing up with an Austrian mother I was told tales of the Grampus, who left coal in your shoes and a switch with which your parents were to beat you. Now, doesn't that smack of Grimm's fairy tales? Curiously, this year I noticed Krampus sweaters and other devilish gear turning up at one of my favourite gift retailers, Posie Row. The Internet, of course, was brimming with extreme versions of Krampus fashion.
Having your own children is supposedly the time to return to sugar plum wishes. What happened in my case is that I ended up with the toddler that asked, "Why doesn't Santa give poor children presents?" This question stung me as the social cliché between poverty and bad behaviour loomed large. Remember that lump of coal that was said to appear in the stockings of "naughty" children?
|At the Bernard Stanley Gastropub for Project Kindness.|
Perhaps because of my child's early social conscience I have been possessed with alternative ways of Christmas cheer. We worked on a series of toy drives over the years for a variety of causes. The one that was the most bittersweet was the drive for gifts to children who had a parent incarcerated.
This Friday past, I stopped into the Bernard Stanley Gastro pub for a quick bite before attending Mary Barry's early set at The Black Sheep. Friday night during the holiday season can be a difficult time to score a table without a reservation, so I offered to sit at the bar. And boy was I glad I did.
No sooner had I finished my scallops with watermelon salsa than Hasan Hai appeared at the invisible line at the entrance where you stand and wait to be greeted. I flashed him a smile and a two thumbs up. He responded with a point and grin. In short time we were seated beside each other except that Hasan sat on the bar. I stashed his jacket on my lap. The cameras came out and I was told to keep a straight face.
Now, I should probably point out that Hasan has more than one persona with a social conscience. He started the Newfoundland Beard and Moustache club and donned a merb'ys tail to help raise funds for Spirit Horse. Friday night he was "the dark elf on the shelf" with Project Kindness and was raising money for the Food Sharing Network. The money goes directly to the charity as Hasan pointed out to me, "my elf leggings don't have any pockets." The dark elf has appeared at a variety of St. John's locations and this season netted $3,831.35, which will leverage much more–the gift that keeps giving.