I hadn’t celebrated Christmas for many years when I met Dick. I hated the whole commercialization of the season, the way people bitched and moaned about “having” to get so and so a present, not knowing what to buy someone. It went along with my anti-city feelings, or maybe it was just me being contrary. Dick wasn’t particularly attached to the celebration either, so we didn’t start the practice as a couple.
Once we were living rurally, the CBC became a big part of our day, especially in the winter when we were in the house more. We’d hurry to do all the outdoor chores before 10 a.m. so we could be inside to listen to Peter Gzowski and Morningside. Peter was a binding force for rural and urban Canadians, talking to people from Pangnirtung to Cornerbrook to Ucluelet and everywhere in between. He was personable and erudite and told great stories. He connected people and it felt like you had a friend right there in the house with you. I’m sure it kept many who were shut in or isolated sane.
After almost a year of our escape from the city both Dick and I started working at “seasonal jobs”. I waitressed and he did what 90% of the men up there did, he became a carpenter. He could work longer into the season than I did and one year, by late fall, I had the blues. I think it had to do with listening to the stories on the Morningside. Letters were read about what Christmas means to people, what they were doing to help those in need, how they loved being with friends and family and found the joys in the season. I listened to all the heartening stories and interviews, and sobbed.
Dick came home at noon on Christmas Eve 1988 to find me all weepy and useless on the couch. He said, “get your coat and boots on, we’re going out.” I wiped my eyes and reluctantly followed him. We walked down the back road, away from the house and I don’t remember if we talked about anything then or he just found and cut a small tree, but suddenly we were doing Christmas! That was the smallest tree in the world, but it was the best one I’ve ever had. We put it in a little bucket weighted with rocks, set it on a side table, threw a piece of fabric around the base and decorated it with crystals and things we had hanging in the windows.
I raced to town to see what I could buy for Dick’s first Christmas present from me. Slim pickin’s at Lepine’s Hardware, but I found the perfect gift; a come-along! I grabbed a few candy-canes and a box of chocolates at the pharmacy and headed back home. Next day we put Handel’s Messiah on the turntable in the morning and blasted the Who’s Quadrophenia in the afternoon. We made eggnog from our own eggs and milk. It was a fine Christmas. The next year, I went a little wild and had pine boughs everywhere and we got a bigger tree. I really took to it after that, making brandy-soaked Christmas cakes in November, hauling out the clip-on candle holders for the Christmas tree from my childhood and crocheting presents for everyone. It was delightful to make gifts and share in the season again. Good excuse for lots of house parties and visiting. As long as we weren’t snowed in.