A Busy Calgary Christmas

This has simultaneously been the quietest and the busiest Christmas season I think I’ve ever experienced. I had been looking forward to two weeks of quiet rest, working on personal projects, sleeping, watching movies, and trying my darnedest to relax before the beginning of the new year.

Life loves to mess around with my plans.

Officially off on 20 December, I resolved to sleep … well, once I had my shopping done. So on the 21st, I wandered down to Chinook (via the C-Train, mostly because I knew parking would be a disaster) and see what I could see. I saw little, except hoardes of people all trying to find the perfect gift. I decided to try my little trick of last year — find what I want, see a matinee, and shop when everyone else had gone home for dinner. Only problem: No movie I hadn’t already seen was available at the right time. I had to return to shopping … but only at two stores. I retreated to downtown where things tend to make more sense.

My mother arrived in town on the 23rd. The plan, originally, was to have the entire family out in this neck of the woods. But Cathy and Craig ended up stranded in Southern Ontario. Airfare, especially during the Christmas season, is far too pricey for people in the midst of a kitchen renovation. We would miss most of their precence this year — the second Christmas that Cathy and I would spend apart.

The first Saturday and Sunday were occupied with me running errands and cleaning. I didn’t know when family was going to start dropping by. I had also hoped to finish my Christmas shopping before then. Ya, right. I didn’t finish shopping right up until the 24th — my usual timeframe.

One of these days, I’ll have enough smarts to start earlier. Probably when I can get someone else to do it for me…

I spent Christmas Eve with two of my closest friends, Tara and Scott, and our friend Geoff. (Yes, having two Geoffs in the same room makes conversation challenging. Getting the both of them drunk makes it funny.) It was a seafood smorgasbord: shrimp, scallops, mussels, and lobster. We ate, laughed, and carried on until into the wee hours. Mostly because we had to make sure Geoff (the other one) was “safe” to go home. Geoff, it seems, has an allergy to shellfish.

The one day I had been really looking forward to was Christmas morning. I was looking forward to sleeping in. Tamara was with her family out past Tisdale, Saskatchewan. It was just me and the cats. And a 7:30 wake-up call. I had to pick up my mom from her hotel. The story had unfolded the day before:

Me (picking up the phone): Hello?

Mom: Hi, it’s me! Here’s the plan for tomorrow. We’re going over to Brenda’s [my aunt]. Pick me up at 8:30.

Me: 8:30 at night? That’s a little late for dinner, don’t you think?

Yes, I actually said that. It took me a moment to realize what was really meant.

I spent Christmas morning with my family. It was nice not to have to open presents — well, I had to open a few, but they were small. After this year, small is the best I could ever want. Dinner was a turkey tsunami — all wonderful, but as usually, too much. (I ate way too much this holiday season … as per usual.)

Boxing Day is North America’s single largest day of pure capitalism. It’s a chance for everyone to become completely moronic, act without care of fellow human, and rack up even more debt. So, yeah, I went shopping.

But not until about 11:00am. I wasn’t willing to get up early. And I wasn’t willing to visit any of the main malls. I kept it quiet and simple: A&B Sound and HMV, both downtown, and both in walking distance. A&B Sound was a zoo — people everywhere, and none of them really finding what they seemed to be looking for. Of course, the store had opened at 7:00am, and people had started lining up at midnight. That kind of thing I just do not understand.

On the 28th, we celebrated Nana’s 90th birthday. Nana is my sole living grandparent. Her actual birthday isn’t until late January, but this was the most convenient time to have most of her family come and celebrate with her all at once. So for one night, we zipped one month into the future to wish Nana a happy birthday. Even Cathy and Craig made an “appearance”, through the magic of pre-recorded messages on video tape.

Like almost every Tisdale clan affair, it was met with far too much good food. I arrived almost four hours ahead of Nana (she was off with my Uncle David, exploring the Kananaskis) to help prepare the meals. We had a wide-ranging theme of dishes, including Vietnamese salad rolls, Asian scallops, mini crab cakes (Jen and I spent the better part of an hour cracking crab on the only available surface — the floor), and the coupe de grace — a huge roast beef. I didn’t eat the next day until almost dinner.

Before I knew it, it was Mom’s last day in town. We spent it partially at the mall, where we browsed several shops, and also at my home, where she visited with Spaz. There is never enough time for everything, though — soon, she was back at the airport, and I was watching her through security on her flight back to Toronto.

New Year’s Eve — a night when most people (like Tamara) go out and have fun. Me? I watched Minority Report, The Emperor’s New Groove, and barely half of Lord of the Rings before I called it a night. I wasn’t interested in going out. It’s been a hard year. It was a night I wanted to spend alone.

With all the family, activity, and distractions, I didn’t start feeling really relaxed until this morning. I woke just before 11:00am, and ventured downstairs to watch TV. Exciting, eh? But I had a reason — today, in theory, would be my moment of national fame. In theory, I’d be on CBC.

Following the Governor-General’s and Prime Minister’s messages to the country, CBC aired the last remaining show of their 50th Anniversary celebrations — a 50-minute documentary of the CBC TV 50th Anniversary VIA Rail train. I got to sit and watch friends again, new footage I hadn’t seen before, and a few surprises I hadn’t expected. Hopefully now, people can understand what I did, and why I have so much difficulty trying to explain what it was like.

And this is how my year begins — with a new sense of being, sense of future, and a desire to experience more that this world of ours has to offer. That’s not to say I didn’t do a lot this year. But that’s another email…