Worms for Christmas

by Joan Williams from Saskatoon, SK
Nov 28, 15

My youngest son, Mike was a curious child. He spent his summers outside, often in the garden where he would pass hours looking for creatures.

For some reason Mike was a magnet for ladybugs. When he came into the house there were always ladybugs stuck in his hair and to his shirt.
His favourite creature, however, was the earthworm. Every time someone went into the garden, there was Mike, five years old, waiting for a hole to be dug so he could lay claim to every earthworm turned up. Mike would pick them up, wash them off, bring them into the house and lay them out on the dining room table to and measure them.

Both his father and I encouraged this, but it was his grandmother, who began to envision her five-year-old grandson as an biologist. 

Fall came and went, the potatoes were dug, the worms collected and measured and returned to the soil. We all settled in for winter, and pretty soon Christmas preparations had begun.

Christmas was a season Grandma kept well. She would spend months getting ready - baking goodies, shopping and decorating.  

Christmas morning was spent at her house. We would all bundle up, pack our presents in the car and head over for breakfast and presents.

Breakfast would be pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs and of course toast. No presents were opened until the last piece of toast was eaten (and Grandma would toast up a whole loaf!).  

The year I am remembering there were presents spilling out from under the tree. And right out front was the biggest present of all, a huge blue Rubbermaid tub tied up with a red ribbon. It had Mike’s name on it. Mike spotted it when we entered the house and laid across it, taking ownership and hoping to get some revelation of what it contained.

Breakfast, as always, seemed to go on forever. Really, who is hungry on Christmas morning when there is a wonderland of presents waiting in the next room? Finally, someone choked down the last piece of toast and we filed into the living room and took our places. Mike stationed himself right in front of the big blue tub. He was quivering with anticipation - waiting for the signal that he could open it and reveal the treasure inside. 

The ribbon was clawed off and the lid peeled up.....

And inside, instead of a cornucopia of toys there was a mound of dirt, and orange peels, and coffee grounds, and egg shells and shredded wet newspaper. 

"Someone gave me garbage!" said Mike looking around the room desperately. 

And then before anyone could say anything, he crawled under the piano bench and sobbed.  

Grandma was distraught. Confused and maybe even angry that her gift - a tub full compost worms - had not been met with the gratefulness and appreciation she had anticipated. 

She had been tending to the worms since she had bought them in the autumn, envisioning her grandson’s great joy and eternal gratitude for giving him his start in the sciences.

This incident is long past. Many Christmases have come and gone. But no one has forgotten it. To this day, no one ever complains about a present in our family… because if they do, they are reminded, as someone inevitably will be every year, that nothing, absolutely nothing could be as bad as a box of worms.