I have been experiencing a period of reading. I’ve been reading about Tom Bombadil’s house, about Gene Kelly dancing his way from the cloops* of Pittsburgh to Broadway (and beyond), about checkmating and en passant. [*A cloop is Gene Kelly’s definition of an establishment that is, in his opinion, a club crossed with a chicken coop.] I’ve been reading recipes for Speculaas cookies, slow roasted vegetables and Gai Lan bedight with minced garlic.
I’ve been reading letters, cards and gift tags from parcels and greetings sent from near and far. I’ve been reading the glances, gestures and expressions of our parents, siblings, friends and extended family on smartphone and computer screens. I’ve been reading the corners of my emotions to find the joy in the gift of the present. I’ve been reading my memories of past seasons that shaped my sense of tradition and celebration at Christmas time. I’ve been reading along the root lines of my life to realize that every moment really does contain all that has past, all that is present and all that will be (The Muppet Christmas Carol may or may not have inspired greater pondering in this vein); I hold a childhood Christmas ornament in one hand and a fresh mandarin orange in the other.
This year my Mom sewed us a quilt made from Christmas bear panels. I chose these panels from a fabric store in Ganges, B.C. when I was eight years old. I don’t recall my choice, but my soul recognizes that every bear depicted is singing or playing an instrument, a foreshadowing of the future me that sits wrapped in a forgotten decision which seems to have somehow shaped the pathway of my life. As of late, I’ve been reading along this path, following the footsteps I have left on the earth. I close my eyes and remember what I thought were discarded memories of napping and purchasing a toothbrush upon arrival in Rome, of the geographical layout of Königsplatz in Munich. I nibble on my mother’s shortbread cookies and once again I am in my childhood living room breathing in the balsam oil of the tree.
I surprise myself with my aptitude in preparing Christmas dinners just like Mom. As I balance the act of a well-timed festive meal, I find myself coming of age; I have graduated from Christmas guest to (potential future) Christmas host. I can bring the magic to create a joyous Christmas for those near and dear. The eight year old in me smiles along the roots at the person I am becoming. This year is not without its opportunities to grow and embrace changes in myself reflected against the ever changing world around me. I sense the spirit of Grandma Olga at the table and can hear my grandpas’ gentles voices and their singing laughter echo off the walls of our bungalow. I feel, for the first time, my yet-to-arrive children in my heart’s centre. They are all with us. We are not alone this Christmas.
Since the new pandemic restrictions came out in Saskatchewan, I had been unable to write about Christmas until today. I fully believe this course of physical separation is the greatest gift we can offer our loved ones this holiday season. I feel immense gratitude for my fiancé whom I get to see and hug each day, and am comforted in the knowledge that my loved ones are safer from not visiting us this Christmas. I suppose I needed these past few weeks to read, to grapple, to find peace, to gently allow some joy in despite the worries and separation of this past year. Even though this Christmas was neither what we hoped for nor what we expected, in its way, it was still a beautiful Christmas. This gives me hope for the future – a moment of light in the immense darkness painted across December night skies, and indeed across 2020. Perhaps this darkness will continue for some time, but we must keep our lanterns lit and our hearts open. The spring will return. The light will kiss the earth once more. We will be together again.