It is nearing midnight Christmas Eve. Mom and I are struggling to stay upright as we walk along the icy sidewalks in the dark. We hang onto each other. Maybe we should have worn our skates – the ice is thick enough, but it is bumpy. We have to make it to Holy Cross Church on time for midnight Mass.
It is something different for both of us as morning Christmas Day Mass used to be the norm for Mom Dad and me. We would eat a small snack before, check out our stockings hanging from the mantle and then head for church. Afterwards, back home it would be a big breakfast, then the magic of digging out the presents from under the tree. Presents that Mom and I had wrapped – her at the table in the kitchen and me at the table in the dining room. When either of us needed more wrapping paper or scrotch tape, we gave the other warning so there was time to cover the presents not yet wrapped.
After the ceremony of the presents, Mom would finish preparing Christmas dinner – turkey, sometimes goose or a duck, if she was feeling adventurous. Sometimes instead of eating dinner at home, we took a bus and streetcar to my aunt and uncle’s place in mid-Toronto to celebrate Christmas with them, my grandma who lived on the third floor of this old house, and my three cousins.
But that’s when Dad was still alive. He died the month before Christmas. The year was 1965. I was 16.
Fast Forward to 2016 and Christmas is so different. Not just because both my parents are long dead, but I am now past the age where each parent died. I no longer go to church as I no longer find it relevant or helpful in my life. Life for not only me, but most everyone is changed so much. And it’s not just because we are older; it’s what’s happened, what is happening to us and to the world. We have too many problems, too much sickness, too much poverty and don’t forget the weather. Used to be snow was snow and it was normal. Now, we get ice storms, freezing rain, even regular rain, flooded basements and communities flooded out their homes, often forever. This is good?
Within all this bleakness I still celebrate Christmas ,but it is a secular Christmas. I don’t mean shopping till I drop, although the past week it’s been difficult to get out even for a loaf of bread, with all the snow, ice, rain, bitter cold and today the winds which are supposed to howl down on and at us. Not to mention an unexpected and unwelcome dental problem and more house problems, some related to the weather. Somehow I can’t help feeling that the Christmas baby in the manger has failed us all so miserably.
My Christmas is spending time with family and close friends – friends and I eat out and sometimes stop at their house afterwards to continue the warm visit. In my old age, I have fewer close friends. One died from cancer earlier this year, but beyond that I am just picky. I think the bottom line has to do with friends who are reliable, friends who are there for you and you for them. In family, it is my son and his girlfriend. My son has helped me so much – now with this dental problem (the actual dental extraction is after New Year’s Day) . They will share the Christmas presents under the tree, and a Christmas dinner (chicken, not turkey as I’m now allergic to turkey – that is if I can find a chicken for a reasonable price, a chicken that isn’t so small and scrawny there is barely enough for one meal for the three of us. There seems to be a paucity of roast chickens and turkeys on sale, or not on sale, this Christmas).
There will be no church involvement here, not even on TV. Instead I have been almost binging on watching TV Christmas movies (old and new – White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney comes up this Thursday evening) and Christmas segments of the regular series I watch. Here I can get involved in other people’s problems instead of mine and know solutions will be found in the hour or two hours of the show. I know that some of these resolutions are too pat and don’t always happen in real life, but I need to get away from real life. To tell the truth, real life can well, really suck.
But I am not stopping celebrating Christmas – with the Christmas songs, trees, decorations, presents, food, music, good friends and family. And yes, even Santa. To me, he represents Christmas for children, maybe like a mascot. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget shovelling all that white shit (snow is a four-letter word) and keeping track of the weather that is coming so I know if I might be mopping up a basement or sprinkling salt on ice outside.
May all of you have a Merry Xmas, however you celebrate it.
Only Child Writes
What I like about Christmas:
What I hate about Christmas and winter