Christ­mas present from 1971 is fi­nally opened

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - ROB DRINKWA­TER

Adrian Pearce was so heart­bro­ken that his girl­friend broke up with him in high school, he never opened her gift

Aman 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 on Thurs­day 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, Mr. 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.

And as Ms. Allen stood on a stage in a packed cafe north­west of the city and peeled away the pa­per with Mr. 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!” Ms. 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,” Ms. 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,” Mr. Pearce re­sponded.

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

They learned that they all got along. They also learned the rea- son Ms. Allen dumped Mr. Pearce all those years ago.

It turned out that while Ms. Allen was shop­ping for Mr. 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,” Ms. Allen said.

She said she knew Mr. 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,” Ms. Allen ex­plained about her re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Pearce.

“I didn’t know he felt as in­tensely as he did.”

For years, even af­ter he’d mar­ried, Mr. Pearce still placed the dog-eared gift un­der the tree ev­ery Christ­mas. He en­joyed the mys­tery of it, but even­tu­ally his wife put her foot down when their daugh­ter, then five, wanted to open it.

“She said, ‘ Daddy, when you die, I’ll be able to open it then, right?’ I told him he could keep it, but we just didn’t want [the gift] out in pub­lic,” she ex­plained.

“I’m pretty se­cure in our re­la­tion­ship. I’ve never been jeal­ous.”

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

Some peo­ple had ac­cused Ms. Allen of be­ing a ter­ri­ble per­son for giv­ing Mr. Pearce a Christ­mas present and then break­ing up with him. Mr. 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 Ms. Allen con­trib­uted chap­ters.

“I think it’s ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic that we’re friends. My wife is friends with [Vicki],” Mr. Pearce told the crowd.

“We’re in a fan­tas­tic place where all you can feel is love.”

JA­SON FRAN­SON/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Adrian Pearce, right, and his high-school ex-girl­friend Vicki Allen open the 47-year-old gift she gave him when they broke up. Mr. Pearce was given the gift the same day Ms. Allen broke up with him and he never opened the small present un­til this year.

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