27 December 2013

Christmas with Neil Young's Dad

Home for Christmas and Other Stories
Scott Young
Toronto: Macmillan, 1989

Seventeen stories by sportswriter and sometime hired pen Scott Young, this is pleasant enough stuff. "Bread-and-butter articles" to borrow the words of one character, most were written for the Globe & Mail, many dating from the days in which the newspaper published a Christmas edition. The best of the lot, those spared the jam and jelly, touch on the autobiographical. In "Once Upon a Time in Toronto" he shares memories of his first Christmas as a married man. "The Night After Christmas" is about the unforeseen, rather surprising consequence of a festive wartime party. My favourite, "A Prairie Boy's Christmas, 1933" is as much about the holiday as it is about the author's rough childhood. It's the author's favourite, "Early One Christmas", that disappoints. Rewritten as "Glad Tidings from the Paper Boy", it begins:
Once there was a boy of 13 who had The Globe and Mail paper route on Brookdale Avenue in North Toronto, between Yonge Street and Avenue Road. He was a tall and thin boy who did not like getting up at six every morning…  
Young has placed some distance between himself and the 13-year-old, whom he never names, removing much of the warmth. Here's the beginning to the original, published in the 25 December 1964 Globe & Mail. Enjoy!
Almost everyone has his own favorite Christmas story. I believe that I am particularly lucky in that my favorite concerns one of my sons. He is 19 now, a little taller than I am and a lot thinner. But this story happened six years ago when he was 13 and delivered a Globe and Mail route on Brookdale Avenue in North Toronto.
     I used to hear him almost every morning at six when he wakened. Usually the two hours after he left were my soundest sleep of the night.
     On the rare occasions when he overslept, this built-in alarm mechanism in my mind brought me awake about the time he should have been moving. When I could not hear him I would tiptoe to his room and say, "Neil".
     "Yes," he'd say instantly, sitting upright in bed, wide awake.
     "I guess you overslept."
     "Guess I did."
     But on this Christmas morning of 1958 he was up on time and, like all other Globe and Mail boys up that morning, rose when the world was black and cold.
     He made the blind trip to the bathroom and sleepily began to pull on his clothes.
     Downstairs, he stood for a moment and looked at the stacked and laden Christmas tree, did the slow march past it, stopped to shake a parcel or two and stood like a robin to listen, and then went on.
     A glass of milk and a brief forage in the refrigerator, and then on with his ear-covering cap and his scarf and parka and overshoes and mitts, on that ice-cold bicycle seat and down the driveway to pedal into the morning alone.

Object: A compact 117-page hardcover in red boards with twenty-four illustrations by Huntley Brown. I bought my copy eleven years ago from a Vancouver bookseller. Price: $1.99. It's a signed, first edition. There has never been another.

Access: Twenty-four years after publication, it's not too hard to find in public libraries. Dozens of copies are being offered online with prices ranging from US$0.01 to US$7064.57. Condition does not factor.

Long out-of-print, as Home for Christmas it can be read as an ebook. This is the "cover":

Chindigo and Amazon.ca for $9.99. Amazon.com charges US$10.78 because… oh, just because.

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