It was the morning of Christmas 2009, the family found the body of Mrs Cavallaro, she had died some time during the night, but our story starts sixty six years earlier, in 1943, with a young sixteen year old Isobel Devine working on her father’s farm at Niddry, about half a mile outside the village of Winchburgh, work was hard but enjoyable for Isobel, at the harvest time extra help was got by the several prisoner of war men, or lads, in most cases. One of the lads, an Italian named Affonso Cavallaro was kept on after harvest to repair barns, fences etc. He and Isobel got friendlier as time passed, and as the war ended Affonso remained in this country. He and Isobel married in 1947, in the local church, he worked very hard, at first, on the farm, then as a tailor, he set up shop in Edinburgh, he did well with the business, and the young couple were blessed with five children, three boys and two girls. Isobel raised the family that she was so proud of, to be honest, helpful and kind. The years past, the family grew up, Affonso and Isobel promised each other time on their own after the family left. But fate wasn’t kind, after a short illness Affonso died, leaving Isobel to oversee the family. Over the years Isobel kept busy, helping with grandchildren, baking for feted, helping neighbours, indeed, at times Isobel felt that she so little time. Throughout the village Isobel was well known for her generosity, and not so well known, many a few pounds have found homes of the less well off, secretly. Isobel always started to save, and buy presents from April time onwards, and by the end of November she had wrapped each and everyone, presents for the younger ones and money for the elder ones, and placed them all in a big wooden chest (made by Affonso, many years before) each one had a tag, which read “With Love at Christmas”, all the ground grandchildren would plead with her, to see the gifts, but Isobel just smiled, and the chest remained closed. It was in early December 2009, that a terrible famine had occurred in Malawi, the television showed little boys and girls, starving, dying. Without a thought, Isobel had gathered up all her money and the gift monies and sent it all off to the appeal. Later that month, only a week before Christmas, Isobel heard of a young man, who was unemployed, had been killed in a road accident, Isobel felt heartbroken, for the man had left a wife and four young children. Again, with no hesitation, Isobel had gathered up all the presents left and took them to the house of the young widow. She left the gifts on the step, knocked on the door, and hid behind a hut till it was safe to leave. And so, on Christmas Eve, Isobel opened the empty chest to finally realise that she had no gifts, or time left to get some more, she broke down and cried, what have I done. It was with heavy heart, she later went to bed, where she lay tossing and turning. It was some time later she fell asleep, only to be weakened by the sound of a baby coming from the wooden chest, Isobel arose and went towards the chest. Suddenly a beautiful light shone from the chest, and there, on a bed of straw, lay a little baby boy, Isobel knelt down in wonder, and brushing straw from the child’s face said, why are you here, little one, the child held out his arms to her. At that very moment Mrs Cavallaro’s kind old heart stopped beating. And so the family gather on Christmas morn to find her still kneeling at the chest dead, oh look they cried, she was taking out our presents to leave them under the tree. For it was true, the once empty box, was again filled with gift, each bearing a tag “With Love at Christmas”.
And, my friends, that is the true meaning of Christmas, in giving we receive, no matter how we feel, there is always someone worse off, Brian