My poor upstairs tenant Elodie, a young woman here for a few months from France, is not prepared for a Canadian winter. In some years recently, we’ve had it easy, but this year, brutal cold – yesterday, with the wind chill, minus 26. I started out completely bundled up, like a hulking mountain of cloth, walking to the Y, stopped after 3 minutes to see when the streetcar was due, and waved for a cab.
It’s done; the tsunami has rolled over us. My tree is already down and outside the door. It was wonderful, it was exhausting, it was one of the best. We went tobogganing Xmas afternoon on nearby Riverdale hill, the best toboggan hill in Toronto; Jean-Marc and Richard lent us two classic long wooden sleds, and even in the bitter cold, and Sam in sneakers – he’d left his boots at work – we went to the hill. I did not go down but they all did, including Elodie getting a real facefull of Canada on Xmas; Thomas took Eli down the steepest part of the hill. It was wonderful.
The gang; Sam – in sneakers, and though you can’t see it, Ben’s Spiderman hat – and Elodie.
When we got back everyone had a quiet time, while the 18 pound turkey baked and some of us finished preparing the veggies. And then opening presents. Best of all – Eli’s magical light up shoes, worn for a time by both boys.
JM and Richard and two friends of Sam’s, a Brit and a Russian without family here, arrived, and we feasted on massive quantities of food. Elodie had made a stunning centrepiece and bought us a buche de noel. Despite an intense day of togetherness and pressure, there was not a single explosion, even from the kids. It was truly glorious.
And then, gloriously, the family went home. JM and Richard watched “Victorian Bakers” and then it was time for my treat, the “Call the Midwives” Xmas special. Typically for them, the main storyline was not just peace and love but about sexual and physical abuse from a jolly man we met at the beginning and then gradually learned the truth about. There are treacly bits, but this show delves deep.
I think there should be a #MeToo to acknowledge the heroic struggle that Xmas represents for women. Who carries this enormously demanding festival? Who makes the lists, buys most of the gifts, cooks the meal, gets people through it all? Almost exclusively women. Every year, I think of those women who work in retail, who do all that on their day off, and then get up at 5 a.m. to work the insane madness of the sales on Boxing Day. Those women are giants.
This lucky woman had help cleaning up, and then took her tree down and put the good silver cutlery and good dishes away for another year. And then the best part, yesterday’s lunch – a heaping plate of leftovers in the silence of the kitchen. Family is heaven. Also heaven – solitude.
May you have the gift of silence at some point today.