Lend me your ear

Ed Smith
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You probably already have that perfect gift for your Other Half.

I know how you did it, too. You gave the cash to your daughter and said, “Here’s some money. Go pick out something for your mother.” And then you added, “We never had this conversation.”

The story I am about to tell you is a Christmas story. But more than that, it is a love story, combined with one of the deep humiliations of my young life. It’s a true story that tells about being blinded by love. It tells of absolute and total stupidity. Mine.

The year was 1960. I had met the love of my life the summer before, and there was no doubt in my mind that we would marry one day. We had spent the following winter together at Mount Allison University in Sackville cementing, shall we say, our relationship.

In the summer of 1960, we went back to our respective homes, she to St. John’s and me to Gambo, pursuing summer jobs until the time came to return to Sackville. Several trips were made back and forth between those two locations during the summer, so the time passed pleasantly enough with the beautiful promise of September hanging richly in the air. (You have to admit those 14 words capture the essence of young love waiting to be fulfilled — you’re touched, if you’re not sick.)

Almost 50 years later, I still remember those Septembers as being the most beautiful season. Fall was always my favourite time, but the expectation of returning to that wonderful university life made it all the better. That year, OH went back before me because I wanted to go moose hunting with my father. I could just imagine her telling her more civilized friends in the woman’s residence that boyfriend, Ed, was back in Newfoundland on a big game hunt. How proud would she be! How macho, adventurous would I look! Eat your heart out, captain of the football team.

Now all I had to do was shoot one.

Father and I had just one Saturday to hunt, and wouldn’t you know it! Right on that curve a kilometre or so east of Gambo River, three large animals stepped out of the woods. In no time flat, I had killed my first moose and my place as one of the premier big game hunters in the Newfoundland wilderness was assured for my lovely girlfriend and her friends. How much better could it get!

It was while we were dressing the moose back in the basement that I had one of the great inspirations of my life. I had been wondering already what to get her for Christmas, and now those two great events of my life became married in one splendiferous thought: a souvenir from my first great hunt would be the absolutely perfect gift.

I have no idea where the insanity came from that prompted my next course of action. I decided on an object that would be sure to attract admiration and awe as it sat on Other Half’s desk, a thing of beauty from her boyfriend’s adventurous spirit.

From the magnificent head of my first magnificent moose, I cut a magnificent ear. I actually spent some time trying to decide on whether the left ear or the right ear would be more appropriate. This wasn’t to be just any gift. The presentation was all-important.

Accordingly, I found myself one of those pint aluminum paint cans and jazzed it up so that it was silvery and bright, just right for Christmas. I filled it with melted wax and stuck the ear down in it. I was so delighted. I just knew she would be blown away with it. Of all the things I could have chosen for her for a Christmas gift, nothing would ever approach this. Let’s see the quarterback of the football team beat that!

That fall, we got engaged to be married. That was big, but I couldn’t wait for Christmas. At the appropriate time, which was before the other women in the residence went home for the holidays, I presented her with the package and told her to open it in her room. These were the good old days when men were not allowed anywhere near the rooms of the women. Then I went back to my residence and waited for the phone to ring with her voice just dripping with incredulity and gratitude.

It did not ring that night. When I picked her up next day for a drive, I waited for her to mention the gift. She didn’t say anything. Finally, in desperation, I asked her if she liked it.

She was clearly extremely uncomfortable trying to answer and I began to realize that perhaps I had not chosen the gift of the Magi.

I tried a new tact. Did her friends like it? Even more evasive language. Well, did they or didn’t they? Then came the tearful admission: she hadn’t shown it to her friends. Why not, for heaven’s sake? Because, well, because she was afraid they would laugh at it, and by the process of extrapolation, me.

Laugh at my incredible Christmas present? Laugh at me, the big game hunter? But why? Finally, she blurted it out, half laughing, half crying.

“Don’t you see, Eddie? What you gave me is the very large ear of a very dead animal sticking out of a paint can. I can’t show that to the other girls!”

Ultimately I did see, in humiliation and a new awareness of my stupidity. The animal rights crowd among her friends would be mortally offended, someone with a weak stomach would faint and the rest would think me a blooming idiot.

It was our first crisis as a couple, but we recovered and just last year we started to laugh at it.

All it took was 49 years of marriage.


Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Mount Allison University

Geographic location: Sackville, Newfoundland, Gambo Gambo River Springdale

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