You never know when you might be experiencing something for the last time. If you did, you might not look ahead so quickly. Instead you might linger a little longer in that place, in that time, and with those people that are next to you.
I didn't know that last year I would be celebrating my last Christmas in Caledon, a place I'd called home for 20 years. My family had talked about moving for a long time. "We might not be here next year" was a phrase I heard so often that I had started to drown it out. So when the time finally came it was too late to realize that my last Christmas in Caledon was in fact THE last Christmas. Now every Christmas in Caledon will be a memory, a ghost of Christmas past.
The holidays in Caledon aren't more special than they are anywhere else. There is the lighting of trees, the baking of goods, the gathering of friends, and the exchanging of glad tidings, but now that it's all in the past it somehow seems more dear. So here I will share a memory with you...
I'd come home from university to celebrate the holidays with my family. It was Christmas Eve and it was the first time I'd paused from my academic circus of juggling course work and part-time jobs in months. I was beyond exhausted, but still wanted to put my all into celebrating. After feasting on tourtière and probably a bit too much wine, my parents and I retreated to the basement where we put up our Christmas tree every year.
The room was like a postcard - lights dimmed, a roaring fire and candlelight created a warm glow, accompanied by the smell of woodsmoke, cinnamon, and pine. The tree was covered with multicoloured lights and heavy with ornaments, the presents underneath waiting to be unwrapped. I sat in the wooden rocking chair as my parents curled up on the sofa to watch one of our holiday classics, The Bishop's Wife. My cat, Daisy, leapt onto the back of the couch to snooze behind my parents as we settled in to watch a movie we all know by heart.
The warmth from the fire and the wine we'd drunk made us all sleepy, but I managed to stay awake as Cary Grant came to lend a helping hand to Loretta Young, both of them preserved forever in black and white on our TV screen. Soft snoring drew my attention away from the movie and I looked over to see my parents fast asleep on the couch. They had followed Daisy's lead and were dreaming the night away. They looked so peaceful - Mom, Dad, and cat - that I didn't want to wake them to tell them they were missing the best parts of the movie. Instead I just watched them and made an effort to memorize the moment.
As I sat there enjoying this tranquil scene, Daisy's furry form, heavy with sleep, slowly started to slide down the couch. She was in such a deep sleep that she didn't realize she was falling onto my parents below. Her body slumped right on top of my mother's head.
Mom seized awake, legs kicking, voice screaming "what?! what?!", grabbing at my father, who was jolted awake by all this noise. In his confusion he also started yelling - "huh!? What?!" The cat, who was awoken by the fall that had her crashing into the laps of two screaming adults, started shrieking in a panic. She leapt from lap to lap in an attempt to escape the swinging arms and cries of terror she had inadvertently caused. For a second the three of them were yelling and grabbing at each other as they tried to figure out what the commotion was about and why they were suddenly awake.
I was doubled over with laughter, so it took me a moment to explain what had occurred. Mom and Dad settled down eventually and went back to peacefully dozing by the fireside, but Daisy was miffed for the rest of the night. Skulking around the house with her tail puffed up, she was ready to take up a battle cry again if need be.
That is one of my favourite memories of Christmas in a home that I no longer call my own. It's silly, and it's brief, but it sums up my little family quite well.
This year I spent my first Christmas Eve in Rosemont. Celebrating the holidays with my boyfriend's family, I got to make new memories and practice different traditions. Their family also includes two cats and lots of laughter, which reminds me of my family, and therefore already feels like home.
A view of Caledon one Christmas many years ago