Linda Purjue taught for one year at Nemiah Valley where she met her late husband. She belongs to the Spinners and Weavers Guild and the Writers Group. She has lived in Williams Lake for 42 years and would not dream of living anywhere else, she said. Purjue is a winner in the Tribune’s Spirit of Christmas Writing Contest.
Sitting on a shelf in my buffet is a jolly-looking little china Santa Claus with one arm upraised in a cheery greeting and dressed in his traditional red suit, this one trimmed in snippets of real white rabbit fur.
I have had this ornament for a long time; in fact, since I was a school child of just nine years old.
It was the beginning of the 1960s when I was in grade four. Christmas was a big deal, at home, in the stores, and at school. We hadn’t even heard the term “politically correct,” let alone followed its rather dubious rules. Classrooms were not only allowed, but encouraged to do everything Christmas.
One of the things my teacher for this year, a young woman named Miss Marzocco, decided to do with our class was to hold a Christmas card making contest. We were to make a Christmas card, using any artistic method we desired.
On a certain day, the cards would all be displayed, and the class would vote on the one they thought was best.
Not only was this to be an exercise in artistic endeavour, but also our first taste of the democratic procedure. Never before had we had such power put into our hands. We were used to the autocratic rule of the usual classroom.
These cards were to be made on our own time, so were in a way a fun sort of homework.
They were to be complete with a verse or greeting on the inside, and be ready to send to someone.
I was a dreamy sort of child who made a point of not doing things the same as everyone else (not that my adult self is any much different in that regard) and mystical, romantic images started dancing through my head. To begin with, I started with black paper, not your usual Christmas colour, and folded it in half to make the basic card.
I then drew a pencil sketch on a smaller piece of white paper, a picture of a fawn, complete with its dappled coat, dancing in a snowy forest clearing surrounded by snow covered trees. This was glued to the front of the card. Another piece of white paper with a suitable message on it was glued to the inside of the card. Black and white, the whole thing; not a speck of cheery red or green to be seen anywhere on it.
On the appointed day, we all stood our cards on the ledge of the chalkboard, then in an orderly line wound our way around the classroom inspecting all the entries. Once we were back in our seats, we wrote on a little paper which one we thought was best (I think I voted for my own!). We deposited our votes in a box that was toted around the room by one of the students, and the votes were counted. Democracy in full swing!
I did not win first prize. That was won by a girl (I don’t remember her name) who had used a light green cardboard for her basic card, and spray painted around a sprig of cedar, first in a darker green, then in white, and sprinkled it with sparkle dust. I remember thinking at the time that it looked like her mother must have helped her. I think first prize was a box of chocolates.
At any rate, I won second prize; a china Santa Claus trimmed with real fur. I think it was the very first china ornament I had ever owned, and I was very pleased with it.
I have managed to keep my little jolly Santa all these years. The rabbit fur still clings to his beard and the hem of his coat, although it is looking a bit grey now.
Every Christmas he is put in a place of honour front and centre in my buffet cabinet where he is visible and safe, waving his cheery greeting to everyone, a symbol of Christmas, artistry, and democracy.