Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Calgary

I slept fitfully. I don’t really know why. But when I awoke Christmas morning, there was a slight sense of excitement. Perhaps I’d been depressed the day before and not taken notice. (The reason why, of course, still remains a mystery.) It’s just as easy to believe that there was nothing special about this day, nothing more than the same dull drudgery I feel that I face more often than I care to admit to.

I showered, shaved, and dressed for the day. I would not return until after Christmas dinner, so the objective was to look as presentable as possible, without being uncomfortable all day long. Fed the cat, and hopped in my car for Brenda and Mike’s. I was to be there for 9:00, so we could begin Christmas morning.

Mom and Nana were running a little late, but not so much that the entire day was thrown out of whack. They arrived not long after me, and with mimosas and/or coffee in hand, we proceeded to the living room. There were six of us, and more than enough presents all around. We even had stockings, despite protests that we didn’t really need them.

Inside, the slight excitement grew. Unfortunately, the feeling was a little sickening, becase it felt materialistic. I didn’t want to receive gifts so much as I wanted to give them. Don’t get me wrong — I like receiving gifts as much as the next person, but the acquisition of materials goods just isn’t the driving force for me that used to rule my early childhood. The anticipation, however — that I will never miss.

Jen got a digital camera, one she has to share with Brenda. The key reason is that so Jen will have it when she goes to Japan with me in late March. It will be an experience of a lifetime, and she needs to record every event. Mike and Jen played with it most of the morning … no, I take that back — most of the day. Mom received a personal chef service from the family, and a foot massager from Cathy, Craig, and myself. Brenda received some nice clothes, as did Nana. Mike made off with a Belgian beer selection.

As for me, I got a good book on the Canadian Pacific Railway (“Stand Fast, Craigellachie!”), a pocket watch with an engraved train, funds for landscaping the house, movies, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, and a cuckoo clock. The clock, in case you’re wondering, is a Mini-brand product. Every hour, instead of a little bird, a little red car pops out of its little doors, revs its engine, and beeps its horn. Cathy couldn’t resist getting it for me. I could barely stop giggling.

The video game (“Grand Theft Auto”) came from Tamara, my roommate. This had been a trying year for us. Tamara was laid off from Critical Mass in June. In lieu of her having to move out, I just didn’t ask for rent. Until she was contracted back (for five months!), Tamara didn’t pay rent. I know what you’re thinking — why would I do that? Simple: It’s far harder to find a perfect roommate than it is to lose money. Considering how well we get along, the last thing I needed was for her to have to move out. With her contract now expired, that is a possibility, but one I hope won’t come soon. Tamara and I both know the situation, and how it makes the other person feel. Tamara’s card, despite being aimed at young children, made me cry.

Breakfast followed, as did my traditional butt-whipping at video games. (Jen usually creams me on the game of choice.) By 15:00, it was time to head up to Nana’s. We had to prepare for dinner.

When Nana had moved into her complex, she had immediately made arrangements for us to use the Family Dining Room for our great family feast. While all fine and dandy, this did pose a couple of logistical problems, most notably the cooking of the turkey. (In fact, this simple thing created what I can only describe as the first great family feud in my memory. In the end, Uncle David took over turkey preparation, while Mom and Brenda just fumed about the whole situation.) Seating arrangements weren’t too difficult to sort out.

The feud did not continue when everyone arrived. Instead, we prepared dinner, with everyone chipping in for details (moving furniture, making parts of the meals, grabbing things from Nana’s room). By 17:45, we were all seated around the massive table, eating. It was the earliest I can ever remember having Christmas dinner.

Following the meal, and before we all partook of dessert, Uncle David presented a slide show. They were old photos of the family from the 1940s and 1950s, when the “children” (namely, Mom, David, and Brenda) were still young. Some of the slides were creepy — there were two where we were all convinced the subject was Cathy, not Mom.

By 21:00, the Family Dining Room looked like we hadn’t even been there. Everything was cleaned, packed up, and on its way back out to the cars. We grouped together in a room just off the lobby, overlooking the complex’s dining room, for a family photo. Darren, Jen, and I all took ones with our digital cameras. I wish I’d brought my larger one — it can handle the zoom a lot better than my small one.

I was back at the gym bright and early the next morning. I had a very high calorie dinner to try and burn off. I didn’t get through a lot of it, because I had to be at Pam’s for 10:30 for brunch. It was the collection of families that had been at the Hovey’s two nights earlier, just a different venue. Pam and crew had been preparing breakfast for some time. We mingled until the breakfast bell was rung, and it was time to eat. I have gotta get the recipe for Pam’s mediterranean breakfast dish. Very tasty.

During breakfast, an idea crept through my little head. It’s Friday, and I want to go see a matinee. Specifically, “The Last Samurai”. It dawned on me that Jen had probably not seen it. Sure enough, she hadn’t. I proposed a plan to relieve Mike and Brenda of their daughter for the afternoon, doing some shopping down at A&B Sound (the two of us had gift certificates to take care of), and then see the movie. All parties were in favour.

A&B Sound was far from packed, but we’d also long-missed the door crasher specials they’d had when the doors opened at 7:00 that morning. Fortunately, the discounts on white- and red-tagged prices were still in effect. It also meant we could get through the store without constantly bumping into people, and not spend forever in the checkout line.

Dumping our new-gotten goods in the car, we headed over to Eau Claire Market for the movie. Having a little time before the movie, we endulged in some games in the adjacent arcade. Either Jen was having an off day, or was being merciful. I won all three games of air hockey, a fighting game (Marvel vs. Capcom, if memory serves me right) that I had no idea how to play or what was going on, and a racing game that really wasn’t that good anyway. Jen still served me my heiny on a platter in Soul Caliber 2, though.

Popcorn and pop in hand, we sat down for the movie. A long one, too. But an interesting one. Not everyone is a fan of Tom Cruise, but he does a very good job in this movie. The short explanation is that it’s about a civil war veteran who ends up in Japan during the Meiji Reformation to train Japan’s new army in modern weapons. He’s captured by the “enemy” (a group of samurai) and learns about the way of the warrior — something he’d lost while fighting in America. Knowing something of Japanese history, it was quite interesting to see, and I wonder how accurate it might really be.

Returning to the Znack’s, we had leftovers from last night’s dinner. Just not quite so much. I didn’t stay too late, though, as I had laundry to tackle — I’m running out of clean clothes.

Besides, it gave me a great excuse to watch the movies I got for Christmas.