LEWISTON — For several seconds, the old woman and the young boy stared at one another, smiling shyly. The boy had just handed over a gift bag and neither knew exactly what to do.

“Merry Christmas,” the woman said at last.

“Yeah,” said the boy. “Merry Christmas to you, too.”

They smiled and the boy walked away.

Good enough.

For generations, older folks have been buying gifts for children. At the St. Mary’s Residences Friday night, the tables were turned.

Dozens of young hockey players from the Junior Pirates program turned out to give gifts to their elders. Bath sets and pies, boxes of cookies, perfumes and gift cards from every store imaginable. One by one, the wee folks weaved through the crowded room to present their gifts.

“Merry Christmas,” said a 7-year-old boy to Claire Gosselin, a resident of the home.

The boy shifted from foot to foot as he watched the woman open her loot. Then he stood, waiting, unsure of how to proceed. It was no problem. Claire knows how to relate to a child.

“How old are you?” she asked.

The boy answered.

“Do you have any brothers and sisters?” she asked.

The boy said he has sisters. He was warming a bit to the conversation.

Claire asked him another question, and when the boy answered, she laughed heartily.

“I asked how long he’s been playing hockey,” Claire said later. “He said he’s been playing since he was a little kid.”

She laughed some more. “He’s 7!”

Claire beamed long after the boy had walked away.

“Cute little kid,” she said. “I wanted to hug and kiss him, but I didn’t know if I should.”

Across the room, 85 elderly residents waited for unfamiliar children to deliver gifts. Lots of holiday wishes were exchanged; lots of questions were asked and cheeks pinched.

All according to plan.

The gathering of old and young is in large part thanks to Erika Moore, a hockey mom who helped bring it all together. Every Christmas, she said, there are programs aimed at delivering gifts to needy children, to the poor and to other groups.

“The elderly,” Moore said, “kind of get forgotten.”

So, she enlisted the Junior Pirates, youths between the ages of 5 and 13, to first find out what the residents of St. Mary’s home wanted for Christmas. With that information in hand, they went shopping. They wrapped their gifts as well as they could and gathered to hand them out. Most wore their Pirates jerseys but added Santa hats for that holiday flavor.

“I think it’s a really good way for the elderly folks to get gifts,” said Cam Cote, a 13-year-old hockey player in the Bantam League. “And to meet new people.”

Cam bought a sweatshirt and a book of word-search puzzles for a woman named Ruth. When that name was called, he went over, handed over his presents and spent a minute or two getting to know her.

“This gets them out there,” Moore said. “They can talk away into the night if they want to.”

Near the middle of the room, a young girl in a Santa hat walked up to an older woman with a cane.

“Merry Christmas,” she said. “Nice to meet you.”

The woman smiled, nodded and thanked the girl. When the girl left, the woman turned the gift card over and over in her hands. She showed it to her friends, a perplexed look upon her face.

“She got this for me? Why did she get this for me?” she asked.

“It’s different this year,” her friend said. “This year they’re bringing us things.”

The woman looked at her gift card again.

“Oh,” she said. “How nice.”


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