This is a fun little story that goes back to when I first started out in business, I hope you enjoy.
Family still revved 18 years after Celica's arrival
It has all the hallmarks of a true Christmas story ... child born to parents in cramped, unfamiliar quarters. And like that other story, it's celebrated and retold each year.
Except in this tale, the child was born in a two-door Toyota on Harbord St. in Toronto.
Yesterday, on the eve of her 18th birthday, Celica Truong – named for the car she was born in – and her family, celebrated the occasion with "Uncle Cory," the store owner who rushed to help them.
"The thing that amazes me is that they come to visit every year," said Cory Bernatt, 42, owner of The Sandalman Leathercare. "Anybody would go and call and try to help. But for them ... you just don't find people that have that tradition and honour."
Bernatt never expected to see them again after that first year. "But for some reason, they come back."
The Truongs and Bernatt remembered that day as they exchanged gifts in his store, now located on Davenport Rd. near Dovercourt Rd.
It was a Friday, the last one before Christmas, and businesses let staff out early. The Truongs left Pickering around 1 p.m. headed for a hospital in downtown Toronto, but an hour and half later, in heavy traffic, they'd made it only as far as Bernatt's store.
"My wife (Diep) says, `My water's broken.' So I just stop the car right away," said Khim Truong, who ran across the street and asked an officer directing traffic to call for an ambulance. "When I come back, my wife said, `The baby's head is out.'"
"It was —23C, I remember how freezing it was," said Bernatt, who left his store with T-shirts to swaddle the newborn.
By the time the ambulance arrived a half-hour later, Celica had made her way out.
The story received a lot of media coverage at the time and the Truongs not only have the T-shirt as a memento, but newspaper clippings, and have even re-enacted the event for television news. A U.S. magazine article that covered the unusual birth ran with the headline "1990 Celica runs on milk not gas."
After 18 years, Celica is getting tired of telling the story. "I've told it so many times," she said.
"She doesn't want anyone to know," said her brother Jason, 19.
"I tell them, or my friends tell them the story of how I got my name," she said of people who ask about her unusual name.
Bernatt, who began as a sandal-maker and has two pairs on display in the Bata Shoe Museum, said he's never met anyone quite like the Truongs in his 25 years of business.
"I only see (Celica) once a year. ... These people are the sweetest people you'll ever meet," he said, noting that they even started bringing presents for his two daughters after they were born.
"I think we're keeping something alive by this tradition," he says.
"In our culture, it's a tradition that if someone is good to us, we always remember and that's why we come back every year," explained Diep Truong.
"We've become friends," said her husband, Khim. And that has all the hallmarks of a true Christmas story.