Best bits of Christmas

Me and Grandma’s silver Christmas tree

Christmas tree in my room?

In the run-up to my forty-eighth Christmas, I thought it would be fun to visit the best bits of my past celebrations. In the practice of being grateful for the joy this holiday has brought me, I hope to hide away some of the small annoyances. I think reality is shaped by what I focus on. So here goes my walk down memory lane…

The first Christmas I can remember was in our small house in Devon, Alberta. There was a baby doll for me, somewhere in there and a big party in the basement with all the cousins from my Dad’s side of the family. I liked to see everyone so dressed up and so much food lined up on the table, buffet style. There was fancy decorations with so much glitter. Because Alberta is so dry in the winter, my fine blond hair either stood on end or had tinsel clinging on for hours. This would have been before 1976, I think because this was before my youngest sister was born and we moved to a bigger house on the other side of town.

Another childhood holiday season comes to mind because there were so many people at our house. Lots were staying with us, and there was never a dull moment. We had moved to the big 2-storey house in Devon, Jenny my youngest sister was the cutest toddler you had ever seen. On Christmas morning santa had brought a huge painting easel for my closest sister Barb and me. The paper looped over top was a huge card with handwriting which was not my Dad’s or my Mom’s, but seemed suspiciously familiar! We lived close to a huge toboggan hill and my Dad helped the neighbours flood a huge sheet of ice in the park just outside our door. We built the most amazing snow forts in the huge piles of snow left by the grater. Then, when we came into the house, it was toasty warm from the fire and there were people everywhere ready to play a game with a kid like me.

In Calgary we lived in a house which had a vaulted ceiling and the Christmas tree we would get, could only be crowned with the angel from the landing of the staircase going upstairs by my Dad. Many years we experienced the warm chinook winds blowing over the Rocky Mountains from the West, melting any snow which had accumulated. It was a different kind of Christmas for that reason and because technology had started to creep in. Board games gave way to handheld personal devices which contained simple challenges like the falling bricks of tetris. I was a teenager by this time and was soon driving my own car and spending time with friends over the holidays.

How many does it take to assemble a lego set?

My sister and I moved out together in a little apartment by the University of Calgary. My parents and youngest sister moved to Grand Prairie. That Christmas was spent in our little apartment, with help from our whole family who lived in the city. We had a big feast on Christmas eve where my grandfather made his fried white fish, we all helped with the perogies and cabbage rolls. That would end up being a tradition for many years to come.

I left Calgary for school in Vancouver. I met my husband. We moved to Connecticut and then back to Calgary. Everything changed as we moved back and forth across North America. We travelled for Christmas or we didn’t. The first time we spent the holiday with friends and no family was a strange one, but I liked it. I remember walking along the breakwater of a town called Black Rock during a heavy storm. There was deep snow, blowing wind and the angry sea threw up huge waves. It was a Christmas of freedom. We could do whatever we wanted, there were no rules.

One year in Calgary, my Aunt introduced us to the rum balls, a recipe which she had perfected. Just the right amount of rum to chocolate to cookie ratio. Because they packed a punch, they needed to be rolled small. We developed a system. Dedicate a whole evening, with at least 3 of us, some wine and a movie. Tray after tray of rolled confections made it into the freezer for the final setting. Quite frankly they are safer in there. Out of sight, out of mind. It is way too easy to eat a dozen in one sitting. This year, I enrolled my kids. Turns out my daughter doesn’t like rum, but she is a good roller and stuck around for the whole movie.

As we made our way West, we landed in Vernon, BC where my son was born. That first Christmas with a baby was such a treat. We had a beautiful tree in our picture window with a view over lake Okanagan. There were parties and visitors, craft fairs and snow everywhere. We created friendships which still go strong today, including our son meeting twin boys who are almost the same age. It was so fun to play with 3 baby boys that year. They were delighted by everything they saw and ever so easy to entertain, fascinated by whatever came into their view.

My kids 2004

Once we moved back to the Coast, our daughter was born into the house we still live in today. We have had many great Christmas celebrations here and elsewhere, but always as a family. I loved the mornings where we inspected the fireplace hearth for evidence of santa. My husband would get a boot and make a trail of footprints in the ash. The cookies would mostly be eaten, leaving just a small bit. The carrots for the reindeer would be gone. Left behind were mountains of gifts. One year my brother-in-law drove a huge RV from Calgary so my sister’s family could enjoy the holiday with us. We took the 4 kids everywhere that year because my sister likes to get out of the house and do stuff. The science centre, swimming pool and the beach were part of that trip, no matter the weather we had such fun.

The year platty came into our lives

Little boys playing

Big boys playing

One year, there was a huge dump of snow. We piled the kids on the toboggan and pulled them over to the local school where there was a decent sized hill. Earlier in the day, the older kids had carved out a couple of good runs. We spent Christmas eve with the hill to ourselves and the kids going up and down the hill until they were so tired they couldn’t put one foot in front of the other any more. That is still one of my favourite memories.

Christmas tree 2012 La Paz, Mexico

Looking for a simpler Christmas we began to venture out to Mexico for the holiday. Four years in a row, we took the kids to the sun. Family joined us for some of those adventures. I still think boogie boarding in the waves of the Pacific and eating fish tacos with our toes in the sand is my favourite way to spend Christmas morning. There is something about the freedom of the holiday being spent in a place where we don’t know anyone, which I really like. There is anonymity and variety, an intoxicating mix. The travel also breeds gratitude. Without living the holidays in other places, it is hard to realize how good we have it. Or maybe realizing there are many ways to do Christmas. You don’t have to eat turkey beside a Christmas tree, listening to the same tunes in order to honour the holiday.

Indonesian santa and the Browns in 2017

This year, we tried to keep the holiday a little bit low-key. I do not have very many days off in my present working situation, so we only have a few plans. As a family, we are helping with the big family meal, each bringing a dish we made ourselves. We put up outside lights and decorated a tree. Our kids are attending parties of their own, much like I did at the same age. We are still together as a family, but very soon we will have 3 different schedules to think of. It is a time on the verge of change. Bittersweet, but necessary as our children fly off into their own lives. I’ll be happy to spend a bunch of time reading and maybe knitting a few rows on my current project. I’m not sure how everyone else in my family will remember what we did this year. I only hope there is happiness and joy.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on creativity. Each day, I hope to get a little closer to understanding how to design a lifestyle I don’t need a vacation from. I believe that focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives is an important aspect of happiness and ultimately wellness.

There are a couple of interesting projects on the horizon in 2019. The travel book will be digitally published by the summer. A creativity retreat is on the docket for the Fall.

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Comments: 2

  • reply
    December 23, 2018

    Good memories!

    The Christmas tree in your bedroom – we lived in an upstairs suite that had a kitchen, a bathroom, and a living room. The living room was also your dad’s ‘office’, our bedroom and your bedroom! Small though it was, it was a big step up from our previous digs, where the bathroom was right off the kitchen and you had to leave the bathroom door open if you wanted enough leg room to sit on the toilet…

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