EDMONTON — As Canadians tear open their presents this Christmas morning, there's one dog-eared gift that an Edmonton man won't be opening that came from an old girlfriend who dumped him almost 50 years ago.
Back in 1970, Adrian Pearce was a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at George S. Henry Secondary School in Don Mills, Ontario, looking forward to Christmas vacation.
Then his girlfriend — his first serious girlfriend — broke up with him.
"She gave me a present at the same time and I took the present home. I had a long walk home and I was all upset and angry and all the things you feel when somebody breaks up with you," Pearce recounted.
"And so I fired the present under the Christmas tree. After my family opened their gifts at Christmas, there was still one Christmas gift left and it's the gift this girl Vicki had given me. I told my family I'm never going to open that present."
He never did.
Pearce says Vicki's younger sister approached him a few years after the breakup and gave him some contact numbers, saying Vicki wanted to see him again. He said he saw his old flame a couple of times but they realized they weren't interested in dating again, and soon after they lost touch.
For years, Pearce continued placing the present under the tree, even after he got married and had children. His kids kept asking him if they could open it, but Pearce refused. Eventually, his wife put her foot down and said it wasn't welcome under the tree anymore.
Now he just pulls out the old gift, which is wrapped in shiny blue paper that's fading, and just looks at it before putting it away again.
Except this year he did something more. He found the old phone numbers and dialled them.
"I was almost shaking I was so nervous," he said.
Ten-digit dialling wasn't in use in the Toronto area at the time, so Pearce tried all three of the current area codes, but no luck. He tried an Internet search and called a woman with the same name in Kelowna, B.C., but she was 91 and never lived in Ontario.
Pearce said he's not sure what he'd say if the right Vicki answered. He went by his middle name, Mike, back then so he'd have to explain that. He's not fully sure why he kept the present anyway.
Is it a photograph of her? A book? Chocolates? He doesn't know. Some of the tape doesn't stick so well because one year, in a moment of weakness, Pearce started to open it and then stopped himself.
"I kept it initially because I guess I had hopes that we would get back together and open it together. Now it's just become a habit after 47 years of looking it and having the pleasure of not opening it," Pearce said.
"Maybe I don't want to know what's inside it. It's more exciting right now not opening the thing."
Pearce said his wife is OK with it, and kind of likes the mystery of the unopened present, too.
He said he's considering opening it on the 50th anniversary of receiving it and having a contest to guess what's under the wrapping, with a fee to enter and the proceeds going to a Christmas charity.
"Perhaps she can be found and share in the celebration," Pearce said.