Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas week

We're heading for the shortest day of the year on Thursday, the winter solstice, and yet it was mild today, bright and clear, not like December at all. Maybe we've simply abolished winter. It's hard to complain, because the weather is heavenly. But it does feel wrong.

At this time of year, more than any other, I am profoundly grateful. There were so many sad or difficult Christmasses - the ones when I was alone, the ones when I was struggling to be the perfect mother and wife, when my parents and other family members would come to stay and I had gifts to buy and food to prepare for everyone, small children and a wrecked old house to cope with. And then the worst of all, the early years of divorce, the struggle with my ex over where the kids would be, when. Devastating.

The salvation was becoming the producer of the Xmas pageant at Riverdale Farm - if my kids were with me, they were in the show; if they were with their father, I was almost too busy to notice. Thank you, baby Jesus, Dusty the donkey and the rest of the menagerie. Since then, for years, the kids have been here for Xmas, dragging themselves over in the early afternoon, from their apartments on the other side of town.

This year, for the first time in a decade, both my adult children will sleep here on Xmas Eve - at least, that's the plan - along with Anna's best friend and my almost daughter, Holly, and the grandson sleeping in his warm invisible nest. We will go to friends and neighbours for their annual Xmas Eve party, and then the young will disappear to their own exciting lives for the rest of the night and wake up around noon on Xmas day. The turkey will be in the oven, and all we'll have to do all day is open presents, eat smoked salmon and peel potatoes. The absence of the usual stress is mind-boggling. Moving right along.

Last Thursday was the annual pot luck for my home class students, some of whom have been coming here for years. Wayson was our guest of honour for the sumptuous feast. Afterwards, he wrote about the respect, kindness and humour in the room; how privileged he felt to be there. "It was a glimpse of heaven," he wrote. Hyperbole, yes, and yet - being with beloved friends, especially around a table laden with food, is heaven.

On Saturday, meditating with Judy Steed at the Y - it's phenomenal, the power of this experience to go down, down deep into the soul. Then to a book launch - I was asked to contribute an essay to a compilation called "Letters and Pictures from the Old Suitcase." It turned out that one of the editors lives just at the end of my garden, I'd been hearing her voice for years. So I managed to totter over there in my best high heels to meet her in person and collect my two free copies of the book. And thence to Monique's for our francophone pot luck. This group makes me feel smart, provokes me into learning more - they're so learned about world affairs, history, philosophy.

Today - the lease is signed; my house is rented for three months, from mid-February to mid-May, so the weeks when I'm not in Europe, I will be wandering around the city looking for a place to lay my weary head. Not. Tomorrow, one of my oldest friends, from Halifax days in the Fifties, is holding an open house; I'm going to meet his twin two-year old granddaughters. He lives with his longterm partner, a young man from the Middle East, right opposite the Varsity Cinema, so I'll try to coordinate my visit with a movie. Brad Pitt or George Clooney - what a choice.

It'll surprise you to know that the crabby cat is sleeping. And that, these busy pre-Xmas days, her faithful servant is rapturous.

There are clementines!

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