by Rollie Haselden from North Saanich, BC
When I was a young boy we lived in a small house on the outskirts of the city.
My parents were renting the house, and our landlady Mrs. Bennett was very elderly. She lived alone in a small apartment downtown.
Eventually my family moved to another house but my parents kept in touch with Mrs. Bennett.
One Christmas, years later, I was sitting at the dinning room table with my family and friends enjoying the turkey. We were all talking and laughing and carrying on as families do. But my father looked distracted. I could tell he had something on his mind.
“What’s wrong Dad?” I asked him.
He told me he was thinking about Mrs. Bennett.
“She is well into her ninety's now,” he told me. “We invite her to Christmas every year, but she finds it too hard to get out. She has outlived all of her family and she has outlived all of her friends. It makes me sad to think of her being all alone.”
Now, I had just got my drivers license, and I was always looking for an excuse to drive. So I suggested to my father that I could drive downtown and take Mrs. Bennett a plate of food.
My father, of course, thought that would be a great idea. And I was excited for any reason to drive Dad’s car.
So after dinner Mom made up a plate of turkey with roast potatoes, brussels sprouts, dressing and gravy. She put Christmas pudding in a bowl and smothered brandy butter on top. She covered everything with foil, and I headed downtown.
The streets were deserted as I pulled up in front of Mrs. Bennett's building. Her apartment was in an old four story, brick building in the seedy part of town. Snowflakes were starting to fall as I walked up the steps into the lobby. What a grand
building this must have been when it was built, I thought. I rode the old cage elevator up to her floor, and knocked on her door.
“Who is it?” She asked, opening the door a crack and peering out into the dimly lit hall.
“Hi Mrs. Bennett, it’s Rollie,” I said. “Mom put together a dinner for you."
Mrs. Bennett opened the door and a smile came over her face.
“Come in”, she said. “How nice of you to do this, it smells so good."
She unwrapped the plate and set it on the table. She lit a couple of candles and told me to sit with her.
“I should get going," I said, looking for an excuse to leave. “It is starting to snow.”
"Please stay until I finish," she asked.
I sat down at the table. I watched as she poured herself a glass of brandy.
I looked around at the emptiness of her place, I had just come from a house full of Christmas carols and warmth. A tree with lights and waist deep in presents. Suddenly I felt very guilty about my motive for coming here.
“This is delicious," she said. “You know, I have not seen anyone for days. Everyone I know is gone now. But you have made this Christmas very special. Thank you.”
I knew at that point that I was going to be there for a long time. Mrs. Bennett started telling me stories about her life. She told me about the building of the railway and stories of the Wild West that I had always envisioned.
She talked for hours about the old days. Saloons, outlaws and a time that I only knew from movies.
It was well after midnight when I left. I walked into the cold snowy night and started Dad's car.
I looked up at her apartment as I pulled onto the road. Mrs. Bennett was at her window waving.
I waved too and drove off into the night, knowing I would never let anyone I know spend Christmas alone.