The Christmas tree is at the ready and the gifts are wrapped and packed underneath. The wife, the oldest girl, the boy and the youngest girl have gone upstairs to bed. We have had a grand evening, quite a different sort from other years. I have just checked the fires and closed up the stoves. Outside the snow is falling.
Tom Sheppard, circa 1913
Editor's note: Each year for Christmas our columnist Tom Sheppard writes his columns in the style of someone living a century ago
A few moments ago I came in from seeing that the horse was comfortable for the night, and that the cows were looked after. The oldest girl did a very good job of shoveling out the manure and putting down bedding. The boy cleared a fine path to the barn through the snow, and the youngest girl carried several pails of water.
The wife has filled the woodbox. I even carried some in myself. All is well on this Christmas Eve, 1913.
I have come up with a brilliant idea for the gift for the oldest girl. Once I carried it out, there was a spring in my step, and the wife asked what had gotten into me. I truly felt like a new man. When we decorated the tree, instead of asking the wife to fetch me cider so that I could direct the operations, I actually helped. The oldest girl's jaw dropped open when she saw me putting the candles on the tree.
I must confess that I enjoyed myself. Sometimes it is important to throw traditions out of the window. The old business of me sitting on my throne, advising as to the placement of ornaments, while being served cider, has given way to joint industry. This is the modern world, after all, men and women working side by side. Mind you, I did keep the cider near by, refilling the glass by myself.
I believe that the oldest girl will be thrilled when the gifts are opened tomorrow.
I am going to send her to university. I am quite aware that this is a radical step, but I have gotten the idea that she would like to go, and I am the kind of progressive father, both feet in today's world, who wants nothing but the best for his children. The girl has mentioned on occasion that she would like to further her education, and I am not the kind of person who would stand in her way.
Last week I sent away to Acadia University for their calendar regarding admissions and requirements. As I told the horse, it is a magnificent document, filled with photographs of College Hall, science buildings, the Ladies' Seminary, the library and more. There are rules for behaviour contained in the document, and I am trustful that the girl will be safe.
I explained to the horse that I have had to keep this secret from the wife, as she and the oldest girl are often in collusion, and I have no doubt that she would try to take the credit for the gift. This time, I want the girl to see her father not just as the head of the family, but as the one who has encouraged her in her ambitions.
It is true, I said to the horse, that at first I argued against her wishes to go to the college, but I was gently attempting to show her how unusual it was for a woman to aspire to higher learning. I wanted her to see both sides of the issue, and to realize that she might be giving up the possibility of true happiness, insofar as a husband and family of her own were concerned.
It was when she announced that she would go out west if she couldn't go to Acadia that I seized the initiative and sent away for the calendar. I could see that she was committed to the idea of college, and that such intent meant that my generosity would not be wasted. I put my hand on the gift-wrapped calendar before I blew out the lamps, and thought of the look that would be on her face when she opens it tomorrow.
There is, under the tree, an equally lovely gift for the wife. I have outdone myself, it needs to be said. It is a good thing that our income has been solid this year. I know I said I would tell you about it in this letter, but I will wait until after she has opened her present and showered me with gratitude.
I purchased gifts for the boy and the youngest girl at the Upper Drug Store, on Main Street in Liverpool. I obtained, for the youngest girl, a post card album, which she can use to keep the cards she receives over the years. There are some lovely cards being sold, some even with scenes of our village. For the boy, I selected a tool chest, with tools inside. I am confident that he will put them to good use, and when he is older, I will get him better tools from N. F. Douglas's.
I know that I said I would tell you about the drive back from Liverpool. Unfortunately, as we were leaving, it began to snow, so that when we were in Milton it was difficult to see, and the horse was having difficulty. The youngest girl was worried, so we decided to put by for the night. The wife wanted to go to Milton House, as she knows the proprietress, Mrs. Dagley. However, we were right in front of the Glenwood Inn, which is run by Mary Freeman.
We put up there, and the oldest girl and I settled the horse down for the night. I think she loves that horse as much as I do. We took two rooms, and the next morning had a fine breakfast. Not too much snow had fallen, and we were able to make it back by noon.
The house is quiet, and tomorrow is Christmas. There was a sound on the roof just now, likely ice falling from the chimney. I hope the children were not awakened. The girls and the boy had put out some milk and cookies, and before I went up, I added a dram to the milk and finished it off. Merry Christmas to all, I said under my breath, as I headed up the stairs.