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A Christmas to remember

First, the weather, everywhere in Canada – my friend Chris sent amazing photos of Vancouver buried in snow; and right now, Toronto is suddenly mild and rainy like Vancouver, with mountains of fresh snowfall being melted into slush.  

Usually at this time – 3 p.m. on Xmas eve – I, along with most of the women in this country, would be frantic. The tree would be decorated, the presents mostly ready; time for a trip to Mark the butcher to pick up the turkey, cross off a hundred last minute things, phone calls, errands; friends are dropping in to say hello, do I have their presents, do I have something for them to eat, I who used to do my Xmas baking at Mark’s and Spencers, when we had that fine store in Canada?
But for nine years this family had a little something extra to do at 7 p.m. on Xmas Eve – help produce a pageant for 450 people or so at Riverdale Farm. So there were also many last minute details – was the camel assembled? Were the holy family still healthy, and the choir leaders in good voice? Where were the shepherds’ crooks? One year the baby got sick on Xmas eve and there was a crazy search for a family with a new baby who wanted to spend the evening sitting in the straw at the farm being gawked at by hundreds of people. And such a family, at the last minute, was found. 
At a little after six I and the three others of the producing team would be over at the farm, checking the set up, helping get the shepherds, the wise men, the innkeeper and wife into costume. A team of volunteers would be giving out programs, collecting food bank donations, lighting candles. And then through the chaos, somehow at 7 p.m. sharp, Bernie the narrator with her glorious mahogany voice would welcome the crowd, the carol singing would start, and the whole thing would unroll around the farm until the final moments in Francey Barn, with hundreds of people gazing at the tableau – a couple in the straw with their child surrounded by neighbourhood angels. And on the periphery, the wise and beautiful faces of Rooster and Dolly the Clydesdale horses, Dusty the donkey, the row of cows, the pens of sheep and goats. The smell of life. 
But early this year, the team who did this work handed it on to another team, so my neighbour across the street, Lesia, will be over there at six – which is lucky for me because I will not be going anywhere. I am still in sickland – struggling to get out, but it’ll be awhile yet.  I feel like my head is a balloon on the end of a string, floating somewhere above my head. Since I’ve been bedridden for days now, there’s no tree, no decorations are up. But somehow, once again, that’s okay, because for the first time in decades we’re not hosting Xmas anyway – Sam is in Florida, and Anna will be leaving to join him and many other Dobies on Boxing Day.  So it’s just she and I on the day.  We’ve received invitations from neighbours for Xmas dinner, but I won’t be up to going out.  “Mum,” Anna said, “instead of cooking just for the two of us, why don’t we have Christmas like the Jews? Chinese food.”
She’s a girl of many good ideas; this is one of her best. On Christmas day, we’ll be ordering take out from her favourite Chinese restaurant, Rol San on Spadina. We will both be happy. Instead of rushing around in a tizzy of tension and excitement, I will have done exactly nothing this Christmas except try to breathe and re-attach my head to my shoulders. And my daughter will be eating her favourite dumplings. 
I’m in bed now, writing to you, watching the rain, waiting for my friend Norrey to arrive with her annual gift of baking. Neighbour Richard just came over to fill the birdfeeder for me, and to take back the big pot which arrived at my front door last night filled with fresh chicken soup. I am living the spirit of Christmas, my friends, right here, from bed.  
I send my love to you all, with wishes that you too may have an unforgettable Christmas. 

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One response to “A Christmas to remember”

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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