Pick three words to describe this past year. (please keep them PG. Thanks).
Sad, isolating, connected
What were the best books you read this year? Or the best movie you saw?
I just finished Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown for an online book club.
Because there was lots of time for looking inward, what is one big personal lesson you learned this past year?
There are multiple ways to stay connected. But at the same time just because we have them doesn’t mean we are.
Do you think Covid has strengthened or weakened societal bonds?
This is tough one because for me it’s both. My friend and I go out for coffee once a month so we found a way to do it online by using FaceTime. My grocery delivery people have been a godsend. Relationships take work and talking online doesn’t convey emotion the way meeting in person would.
GRATITUDE SECTION (Optional of course):
What is a New Year’s Wish You’d Like To Share With the World?
I just wish people would treat each other the way they would expect to be treated.
It’s interesting how a cup of hot chocolate can symbolize so many different things for me. Growing up it was the way we warmed up after playing in the snow for what seemed like hours. When I was older my Mom would put on the tea kettle and make me a cup of hot chocolate after shoveling snow. My sister and I would alternate going with my Dad to a garden club he belonged to. Afterwards we would go to Tim Hortons and order a hot chocolate and a donut as a treat. I never really realized how these simple gestures were the way they showed their love.
Hot chocolate is a social drink for me. My sister and I would go out with a friend to Starbucks downtown and we would always have hot chocolate with whipped cream. We were in our early twenties so this really was considered a splurge for all of us. A couple of years ago it was our “dessert” after walking around Victoria Park looking at the lights.
Almost every Hallmark Christmas movie has someone walking through the tree lot with a cup of cocoa. Sitting in the café with a mound of whipped cream on top of their Christmas mug. Wrapping their hands around the mug for warmth. There is something universal about it. Ice skating, cookie baking, family and friends.
For me the first thing that comes to mind when I see the word mouse is Janet’s collection of ornaments. I think the first one I got her was in 1993. I didn’t get one every year because sometimes they were sold out or it just didn’t represent Janet. The first one was a spice cupboard. The second one was 2 mice on 2 spools of thread (Janet sewed) and then the third one was a large teapot. They had singing mice at Shoppers Drug Mart one year. It sings “we wish you a merry Christmas”. She loved it.
One year after she died I was at White Oaks Mall with a friend and happened upon a booth with ornaments so I had them write Sisters on it. The woman asked me if it was a gift and I answered yes. It’s easier to say that than explain that it’s in memory of someone. A few years ago I went for a walk after mailing some letters and was looking in a shop window. It was about 5 or 10 minutes before it opened but the owner opened it for me. I was wandering around and happened upon a tree full of mice. Unfortunately I only had $20 on me as I just stuffed it in my pocket just in case. When he asked me if it was a gift I told him how I buy them in memory of my twin and he told me one of his staff is a twin. I guess you could say that Janet guides me to the mice because I don’t actually go searching for them.
The last picture is a Christmas card from my friend. She draws mice on the front of the envelope too. That’s how I know it’s from her. She usually draws a mouse in the corner…my Dad used to say it was like Ting (a cartoonist who would hide a worm in the drawing).
What gift that you received as a child still sticks out in your mind today? What made it so memorable?
The most memorable gift I received as a child was a red sled given to me by my grandparents. Janet got one too. The thing that made it memorable was the way in which grandpa presented it. He put them outside on the balcony and told us Santa put them there. I don’t remember how old we were…perhaps 9? Young enough to still believe in the magic of Santa. As I look out the window the sidewalk is bare but when we were little we always had enough snow to make a snowman or slide down the hill. We had a slight hill in the backyard that made for excellent sledding. There are many pictures of us at the time on the sled or playing in the snow.
For the online writing group I joined one of our writing prompts was to write about traditions.
There is a picture of me and Janet at my grandparent’s house when we were a year and a half. Obviously I don’t remember the photo taken but the spirit is there. We are dressed up in our Christmas finery and there are stockings hung on the mantle behind us (handmade by my grandmother). Growing up my parents had the rule that you had to wear something nice to dinner even when it was just the 5 of us. Mom always said that Christmas was a special day and that is why we had to dress up.
While many people put up their tree the first weekend in December, the earliest we were allowed was a couple weeks before. When we were young my Dad put up the tree and my sister and I decorated. My Mom had a red and white theme and there was an order to it. You couldn’t put 2 reds together they had to be spaced out. My Dad didn’t like garland so we had tinsel. When it went back into the box you had to drape it over the cardboard or else you would get crinkled icicles next year. Our ornaments were kept in my Mom’s bridal box. The box is faded yellow with Garber’s on the side. We had clothespin reindeer and snowflakes that we made in school. My grandmother made us angels. In the early 90s I started buying my sister keepsake ornaments from Carlton or Hallmark. They were mice. One was 2 mice on a teacup, a spice cupboard and a spool of thread. One year my sister and I went to a craft show at Centennial Hall and found name ornaments that were red plaid.
For Christmas dinner we always had turkey. My Mom would get up early and put the turkey in and the smell would go all through the house by morning. We all had specific jobs. Christmas was when Mom would get out the good china and silverware.
My Mom always did a lot of baking before Christmas. We all had our favourite item. My brother had chocolate macaroons, my Mom liked hermits and she bought butter tart bars for me.
Traditions connect us. Even many years later I can see us all together in the kitchen. I can my Dad sitting in the chair while one of us sat on the floor handing out presents.
Joy is not a word that comes to mind right now. The daily numbers in our city are steadily climbing and we are most likely heading to a lockdown on December 26. Christmas is not an easy time for me as I miss my family but I try to find the joy in the little things.
I sent out a couple of packages this year. The joy of hearing that my friend has her gift displayed on her kitchen counter.
The beautiful card that my friend draws (even though it does make me cry)
Last Tuesday was my last Zoom meeting for the book club I joined. We did an online Christmas trivia and I won a Chapters gift card. We were told to wear something festive so I wore my 2020 ugly Christmas sweatshirt
My cousin sent me a link to an online Christmas event and they had a photo booth so I now have one with my ugly Christmas sweater and a “fancy” one which you see here. It was fun and we both laughed.
Sometimes it’s as simple as sending an email to tell someone I was thinking of them
Last night I was watching Time for us to come home for Christmas on W Network. It started off with a sense of loss. A young woman that had lost her mother, 2 divorced people and a man that you could tell had lost a great love (although it was a while before it was actually spoken aloud in the movie). There was a scene in the movie where Sarah and Jasper are sitting in a church. Sarah says “I just wanted to spend one more Christmas with her” and he says “aren’t you?” That part made me cry because that’s what Christmas is about. When I decorate the tree it’s a connection to my family. I remember picking out the ornament as a gift for my twin. Or the ornaments we made in school.
We treasure the traditions. Walking through the park to look at the lights. Having hot chocolate afterwards. All of those things are a recurring theme in any Hallmark movie. They remind us of moments shared with friends and family.
We need that love and hope that the Christmas season brings.
Yesterday I clicked on a video on our local news station promoting an interactive app for downtown. In the background I happened to notice that a restaurant that I went to with a friend for a belated birthday lunch is now for lease. In the summer I looked online and it said it was closed. The coffee shop beside Victoria Park is also closed. It’s sad because so many businesses are struggling. People talk about how you can shop at Costco or Walmart but if a city goes into lockdown the small businesses aren’t allowed to open. I don’t think it’s a black and white issue. Walmart is one stop shopping. Maybe that person also supports small businesses.
At the same time there is a small store in St. Thomas that is doing great business. They actually had someone complain on Facebook that they wouldn’t let someone in without a mask. The bakery that I order from also has the policy that if you can’t wear a mask you can’t come in. For a long time I didn’t order from them because I thought it would be awkward since I live in an apartment and they don’t come into the building but it’s actually worked out really well.
My coffee buddy and I used to go to Red Roaster in Wortley Village for our monthly coffee date. I went to the one in Central Library often. I loved listening to the hum around me and people watching. Both of these places have closed and for a long time my friend and I didn’t have a regular place that we went to. I’m glad that my city now has more small coffee shops. If you go often enough you become a regular. They get to know your order. The coffee shop near me is more expensive than Tim Hortons but pre-covid there was lots of tables available.
I hope that once everything goes back to normal that people still support local. Tip the barista and the delivery drivers.
I follow The Holderness Family. This morning they had a video where their son was acting out examples of things his parents do at Christmas. The mother told the kids “oh your shoes are wearing out just put that on the list” or the father leaning over to the mother “what did we get them and how much did that cost”. One year my Dad went out and bought himself new slippers 2 weeks before Christmas. We were so annoyed and he said what I need them. When I was watching the video it brought back all those memories for me.
I just got the writing prompts for today. We are to write using our five senses. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be about Christmas it made me think of Dad sitting in his lazy boy listening to the yule log channel with a fire roaring beside him. The crinkle of wrapping paper, the sound of the hand mixer whipping the cream to top the pumpkin pie.
Christmas is the sound of snow crunching under your feet. The squeal of kids skating in the park. The feel of wrapping my cold hands around my cup of hot chocolate.