Heart­break fi­nally ends: gift opened 50 years on

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - ROB DRINKWA­TER

ST. AL­BERT, ALTA. • A man in Ed­mon­ton who made in­ter­na­tional head­lines for hold­ing onto a wrapped Christ­mas gift from a high school girl­friend who dumped him nearly 50 years ago fi­nally learned what it was this week when she trav­elled to the city and opened it for him.

Adrian Pearce, now a mar­ried fa­ther of two, re­ceived the small present wrapped in shiny, pur­ple pa­per shortly be­fore Christ­mas 1971 from Vicki Allen, who was his very first sweet­heart at Ge­orge S. Henry Sec­ondary School in Toronto.

But when she handed it to him she broke up with him. De­jected, Pearce re­turned to his fam­ily’s home, threw it un­der the Christ­mas tree and vowed never to open it.

The story last De­cem­ber about the un­opened gift ap­peared on TV, news­pa­pers and web­sites around the world. On Thurs­day, as Allen stood on a stage in a packed café north­west of the city and peeled away the pa­per with Pearce stand­ing be­side her and his wife, Janet, in the au­di­ence, she her­self didn’t know what she’d see be­cause it was so long ago and she’d for­got­ten.

“Oh no!” Allen ex­claimed when she fi­nally saw. “I can’t give that to him!”

It was a small book called Love Is: New Ways To Spot That Cer­tain Feel­ing with car­toons and say­ings about love. “The irony is ex­treme,” Allen cried.

The event was a fundraiser for the Christ­mas Bureau of Ed­mon­ton, a lo­cal char­ity that pro­vides Christ­mas meals to fam­i­lies in need.

“Love is all of us, all of you, here tonight for the Christ­mas Bureau of Ed­mon­ton,” Pearce re­sponded.

Days af­ter Pearce’s story ap­peared last Christ­mas, a friend who knew them both in high school sent Allen a link to one of the many ar­ti­cles writ­ten about it. Allen re­sponded by click­ing “like” on some of Pearce’s Face­book posts, and Pearce fig­ured out who it was. They got in touch, and even­tu­ally Pearce and his wife were in­vited to meet her where she now lives in B.C.

They learned that they all got along. They also learned the rea­son Allen dumped Pearce all those years ago.

It turned out that while Allen was shop­ping for Pearce’s gift at the mall, she met an­other boy and he kissed her on the spot.

“It wouldn’t have been so bad, but I kissed him back,” Allen said.

She said she knew Pearce would find out she had be­trayed him. She knew it was over be­tween them.

“It was a very in­no­cent re­la­tion­ship. We were in high school,” Allen ex­plained about her re­la­tion­ship with Pearce.

Allen ad­mit­ted some trep­i­da­tion about meet­ing Pearce and his wife. He was a nice boy in 1971, but maybe, she thought, “he’s prob­a­bly be­come an ex­pert axe mur­der.”

Some peo­ple had ac­cused Allen of be­ing a ter­ri­ble per­son for giv­ing Pearce a Christ­mas present and then break­ing up with him. Pearce has also been called ev­ery­thing from “Heart­broke Bloke” in the Bri­tish press to “mo­ron” in one New York news­pa­per.

He’s since writ­ten a book about the whole ex­pe­ri­ence, and his wife and Allen con­trib­uted chap­ters.

JA­SON FRAN­SON / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Adrian Pearce and his for­mer high school girl friend Vicki Allen open the 47-year-old gift on Thurs­day.

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