Christmas With My Old Ma – the story and song

I wrote this Christmas song many years ago.  It is a true Canadian Story and I hope someday others will hear it across Canada.  Either way, I have made my career out of the enjoyment to catch the true moments that deserve to be immortalised by song.  Below this link for the song is the story behind the lyrics.   Christmas With My Old Ma

Back in the ’70s, when I graduated from high school, I moved from the Cariboo to the big city of Vancouver. No more would I be walking the milk cows across Highway 97, stopping the traffic on the road to Alaska. In fact, when I left, they built a cow culvert under the road, so Beauty and the rest of the girls converted.

When I arrived in Vancouver, on my very first bus ride down East Hastings Street, I knew, without doubt, Santa Claus was living there — hiding somewhere amid the bricks and broken glass. Mr Clause was probably sleeping in a hotel lobby chair, right beside an old Grandfather’s clock. At least one friend who worked for CBC believed he saw him there. Resting while Old Man Time swung his pendulum back and forth. He even wrote a poem about it. His name was Tom Houston.

So you see I wasn’t alone in my belief Santa was a real rub-dub; an out of work has been. But when Santa started showing up in department stores with smooth cheeks and a fake beard I could tell nobody here had any idea of how unreal it all was.

Eventually, I forgot too and Christmas in the city settled into a routine of flashing lights, frantic shoppers and long lineups around Santa’s corral.

Like the cows, my curious thoughts slipped into a culvert under the road and time sped by. Or so it seemed until one rainy night in December, busing my way home from downtown Vancouver to Port Coquitlam, I had a strange experience.

While the window wipers were busy in their hypnotic beat of perfect boredom the bus doors opened on East Hastings Street, and an old man’s voice floated in: “Bus driver, can you take me to where I can catch an eastbound freight train? Momma doesn’t know it yet, but she’s gonna have to set an extra plate for Christmas.”

And there he was, getting on the bus, Santa Claus and all his bags. Now I’m very grateful to the lady who sat in front of me as she faced the sideways chair the older man sat down in. You see the old man had a very soft voice and he talked to her because he was happy and because she asked him questions which told me she believed in him too.

Only once, at the very beginning did I look sideways. I couldn’t help the big grin on my face. But nobody else was paying attention, caught up in newspapers and a chance to sleep. No time to waste looking there, I thought.

So I listened as the older man recited a long list of towns…Towns an eastbound freight train would go through…On its way to Toronto…Where Momma was…Where the extra plate would be set…And oh yes, the friend he had in Edmonton who was going to let him use his phone to call Momma. To let her know her son was coming home for Christmas. And all the years it had been since they last spoke. And would the reception be any good for his radio when they locked the boxcar doors?

He was the person I had forgot I was waiting for. The truth that Santa did live on East Hastings Street and this year he was the gift. Wrapped up and ready for a long boxcar ride home.

Of course, this was before terrorism and security checks…a time when people could still sneak through rail yards and hop on freight trains! Now, I want to thank the bus driver who was excited about it and the lady in front of me who wanted to know every detail of it. While the older man unfolded his world out of the bags and boxes at his feet, he read aloud to her the Ads on the bus walls. Always with a comment to her. He liked humour. You might say he was definitely jolly.

I especially remember the one about the exit doors. He said, “I don’t know much about leaving by the exit doors, but I’ve sure got into a lot of places going through them!” Of course, now the sign reads “rear doors”, and I wonder what he would have made of that.

Well, I couldn’t just forget that night. So because my friend once wrote a poem, I decided I would write a song. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to tell the listeners everything about that night, but it never hurts to sing a song about a Canadian, especially when they’re Santa Claus.

Katie Kidwell
The Cariboo Song Rider

©Katie Kidwell, The Living Of Loving, 2019
©GWJ Creative Art

Katie Kidwell is a cheerleader for creative hearts everywhere.  With experience in music, writing and art.  Her inspiring stories on the creative way she has lived are here on her blog “The Living Of Loving”.  She also works as a commission artist.


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