Sunday , January 17 2021

Edmonton Christmas present mystery solved after 48 years, international attention

Christmas came early for Adrian Pearce, but his gift was 47 years late.

It's December 1971, and Pearce is a heartbroken 17-year-old high school student in Toronto. His first serious girlfriend, Vicki Allen, dumps him, just ahead of the Christmas break.

As Allen breaks the news, she handles a gift wrapped in glossy blue paper. Pearce goes home and angrily throws it under the Christmas tree – the beginning of a 47-year vow to never open the present.

The story of Pearce's unopened gift went to viral last Christmas, making headlines all over the world.

But on Thursday night, Pearce and Allen reunited at a bar in St. Albert, Alta., Finally revealed what was behind the now-faded and tattered wrapping paper. Allen was just as curious to know what she had gifted her former boyfriend nearly 50 years ago.

Allen opened the gift she gave Pearce 48 years ago on Thursday evening in front of a packed house at a bar in St. Petersburg. Albert, Alta. (Nathan Gross / CBC)

It turned out to be a collection of comic stripes called "Love is …" by artist Kim Grove. The single-frame strip, inspired by love letters from Grove to her husband, each includes a caption with ephemeral descriptions of love below a scene with the same recurring couple.

"It's been part of most of my life now, so I'm going to keep it there," said Pearce after the gift was revealed.

The gift was a collection of the "Love is …" comics by Kim Grove, an internationally syndicated comic strip in the 1970s. (Nathan Gross / CBC)

The couple reconnected earlier this year after a mutual friend shared the story with Allen on Christmas Eve 2017. Allen eventually agreed to make the trip to Edmonton from her home in Vancouver Island to unwrap the present.

More than a hundred friends and locals packed the bar at $ 5 per head to watch the reveal, with proceeds going to the Edmonton Christmas Bureau.

Allen took the opportunity to poke some fun at her old boyfriend.

"I think it's a long time to hold a grudge. Really, it's a little worrisome, but I'm glad he did," she said with a smile. "I do not think there's anything he could have done differently that would have made me happier than what he's done with this."

Allen says 48 years was a long time to hold a grudge, but in the end, she was thankful her old boyfriend decided to keep the gift she gave him in 1971 wrapped for all these years. (Nathan Gross / CBC)

Pearce self-published a book about the 47-year history of the gift earlier this year, featuring chapters written by Allen and his wife, Jans Piers.

He kept the present wrapped all those years for several reasons, partly out of excentricity, but also to keep the oath he made to his 17-year-old self. Pearce has not broken that decade-long promise, he said, since Allen helped him unwrap the present on Thursday night.

But he says it also serves as a sentimental reminder.

"It always reminded me of those long-ago days that were so innocent. All of us had our future ahead of us," he said. "Every year it has brought me back to being 17 years old and innocent. And, you know, I was not bathed by life as it sometimes can."

Pearce says he kept the gift wrapped for many reasons, partly out of excentricity, sentimentality and commitment he made to his 17-year-old self. (Nathan Gross / CBC)

Piers said she never fully understood the connection between her husband and the gift until they sat down to write the book together. Regardless, she said she was never a contentious point in her 40 years of marriage and she's been a close relationship with Allen.

"It was just something that he never let go of," she said. "Like someone who still has a teddy bear from their childhood."

Allen, who lives with her husband outside Victoria, said she was a grateful story that started with heartbreak decades ago could find its resolve.

"Whatever introduction to love our high school relationship meant to us – we are very blessed, we are very fortunate and we are very lucky that we know what love is," she said, perhaps a subtle narrative to the book she gifted 47 years ago.

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