Why Dad couldn’t attend the annual Christmas concert was just the first of a night of unanswered questions
WINNIPEG — I had gathered from my older sister that the annual Christmas concert was something very special, and every year as a preschooler I desperately wanted to go.
It seemed the concert always fell on a bitterly cold night, however, and my mother, being cautious about frostbite and wind chill and pneumonia, managed to keep me at home until the year I was five.
As usual, the mercury dropped out of sight and a brisk wind whipped the snow into solid banks across our lane. There was a limit to what the tractor could do in weather like this, and a depth of snow that might render wheels useless, especially in the hands of my teenage brother.
And therein lay a mystery.
It seemed a predetermined fact that Dad could not drive the tractor that night, for what reason I could not fathom, nor would anybody tell me.
Bundled up against the cold and huddled under numerous blankets in the trailer, we set out for the concert a mile distant, the wheels of the tractor snaking a crooked path across field and furrow as my brother struggled in the dark to break trail where the snow was less deep.
I watched the concert with rapt attention. Next year I might be one of those girls, wearing a pretty crepe paper dress with imitation flowers in my hair. Or maybe I’d say a recitation, or take part in a play. So many possibilities crowded my mind that it seemed no time at all until the concert was over.
Hugging a present to my scratchy fur snowsuit, I let Mom bundle me up in the bottom of the trailer. All the way home I replayed the concert over and over in my mind. It had been so good. Why hadn’t Dad come?
He met us with the lantern, and despite Mom’s protests that I must have had enough excitement for one night, he led me out to the barn.
As the door creaked open, there was the muffled noise of dozing animals shifting in their sleep, and softly murmured protests from the poultry roosting up above us. But then Dad lifted the lantern up for me to see into the next stall.
There beside the black cow was a wet, wobbly calf.
So that was it. Her untimely arrival had prevented Dad from attending the concert. What puzzled me even more was why nobody would answer the question uppermost in my five-year-old mind: how could a black cow have a red calf?
I was quickly given to understand that little girls did not ask such probing questions.
Like stories about Santa Claus coming down the chimney, and reindeer prancing through the sky, I decided that the new calf was just another one of the mysteries surrounding Christmas that grownups were at a total loss to explain.