December 27, 1998
As my grandmother used to say, the nuts don't
fall far from the tree.
There's a lot of truth to that, especially in my
family. At last count there have been ten members
of my family involved in the media.
I know what you're thinking: Just your luck to
be stuck with me.
Something you learn very quickly is that when
you do something public, like writing for a
newspaper, you have to expect a lot of interesting
people to contact you.
When I suggested a get tough policy towards the
Quebec government a few weeks back, I was bombarded
with venomous e-mail from Quebec. A separatist
there apparently scours the Internet for alleged
offences against the French people, and then sends
it around as another reason why they should leave.
I am now apparently another reason why Quebec
would be better off without us, even though I tried
to write everyone back in French and pointed out I
spent all my summers there as a kid.
That's the joy of having a column posted on the
Internet. It's like ringing the dinner bell at a
It also shows that a million monkeys on a
million keyboards will not necessarily produce
But most of the time the mail I get is
thoughtful and polite, even when readers disagree,
or think I've poked fun at someone unfairly.
Sometimes they're right.
So when I got an e-mail from a reader who wanted
to send a Christmas present to my home, I was a
Something made me break my rule for the first
time ever, even though I joked that I hoped she
wouldn't be sending me any body parts. My mail
carrier was beginning to wonder.
A few days later an envelope arrived at my door.
Inside was a card, a letter, and a small newspaper
The letter explained that the small yellow
clipping was a newspaper column my father wrote for
the Toronto Star twenty years ago. It was her
Christmas present to me.
Dad died almost seven years ago. Too, too soon.
He left behind about eight thousand columns about life, family and
his love of Canada.
Even so I recognized this one column
immediately. It was what being Canadian meant to
"I am Toronto's Caravan, Calgary's Stampede,
Quebec's Winter Carnival. I am Stephen Leacock. I
am a picnic at Niagara Falls and a morning jog in
Vancouver's Stanley Park on a day only God could
Dad had a way with words that made the rest of
us look like typists.
The little scrap had been folded and refolded so
many times all that was holding it together was
about a foot of tape.
That's because - she wrote - she kept it folded
in her wallet. She took it out in good times and
bad for a laugh, a tear, and to help her keep going
when things got tough. And things do get tough for
all of us sometimes.
This column, she said, was my father's gift to
her and now this yellow piece of paper was her gift
to me this Christmas.
She wanted me to know how much it and he had
meant to her, even though they had never met.
I hope I'm not breaking any confidences by
telling this story, but I just wanted to say thank
you for the best Christmas present anyone could
ever ask for.