What is it about Christmas that brings out the best or worst of people?
Christmas held a special meaning for me this year, because it was to be the first year going back home for the holidays to spend time with family. The last Christmas I spent at home was in 1989, and I was 18 years old – nearly 20 years ago. Now, my daughter is a year away from graduation, and the opportunities for the entire family to be together are rapidly diminishing as time marches on, and so we worked very hard as a family to make this happen.
But it was not to be. The drive up north was long and hard through the Fraser canyon, the highway closed at one end due to a massive snowstorm that had bogged down the plows and sanders. Cars and trucks were off the road everywhere, some unable to climb the long hills, some unable to grip the ice beneath the fresh snow. Rocky cliffs and massive drop-offs loomed everywhere as we slowly forged ahead in the snow. Even though I am a northern girl at heart, I discovered after we finally conquered the canyon, that I had chewed half the skin off my lip, leaving it sore and swollen!
My city raised kids and husband were able to at least enjoy one day of extreme fun on my dad’s new Artic Cat snowmobile, ripping up the yard and road at high speeds, and they all revelled in the novelty of deep snow and cold. But by 9:30 pm that same night,we found ourselves back in the car, spending a harrowing all -night drive back down to the coast, dodging dozens of moose and deer all the way on the empty highway,tears in all of our eyes for hundreds of miles. I swear, even after living the first 18 years of my life in PG, spending time hunting and going for back-woods drives with my dad, I have never seen that many moose, ever!
For obvious reasons, I’m not going to get into details – let’s just say that sometimes you see the worst of people, and once those words are out, you cant take them back, and when it comes from someone you’ve known since you were a toddler, it cuts right through you like a knife. I have never been hurt so badly by someone I thoughtI loved so much, and thought loved me.
However, this grand display of nastiness brought out the best in someone else , and taught us all the true meaning of Christmas, and of the importance of family.
We arrived home in the early am hours after that all-night drive, and slept a mere 4 hours before waking the morning of Christmas Eve, with a large task at hand. We had no Christmas tree for presents, never having erected one because we were going to be gone, and to be honest, it just wasnt in any of us. My teenagers are old enough to know that it isnt about the tree, but my three year old didnt. He worred Santa wouldnt come if we didnt have somewhere to put presents ! We told him Santa comes no matter what, but we still didnt have a Christmas dinner, and the fridge was empty because we weren’t supposed to be home.
A quick look in the freezer yielded a young turkey ( sorry Liberation BC ) , and a trip to Superstore in the pre-Christmas madness rounded out the impromptu dinner plans. We would celebrate no matter what, we were together and alive and thats enough, although we were all very sad over not being with dad/grandpa.
Christmas Eve was upon us, and as we readied ourselves to join my in-laws annual celebration, the door-bell rang. I was in the bathroom, but I’m told my husband had his game face on as he approached the door, fully expecting a door to door salesman or the like, but all I heard was silence.
The sight that greeted me as I peeked around the corner was one I will never forget. The two men whom I love most in this world were hugging and crying at the door- my husband and my father. My dad had loaded everything from Christmas at his house,into his truck, and driven non-stop to Vancouver, to get here just in time for Christmas with us. Someone had to deliver the presents, he said. We were together. It didnt matter suddenly that we werent in Prince George, what mattered was that he would get to see his grandchildren open their Christmas presents Christmas morning for the first time in his life. And that, my friends, is a gift that no one can put a price on.
Watching a three year old open presents is a gut-busting laughter filled experience, and seeing my usually stoic teenage son openly hug and kiss his grandpa repeatedly was heartwarming. I spent much time simply watching my dad enjoy being with my kids. So, to sum it up, the best Christmas gift I received this year was my father, and the happiness he brought to our house with his presence. It is often the case, unfortunately, that you dont realise how important family is until you are older. I used to complain about living in PG as a kid, not wanting to live out in ” the boonies”. Now, I look back and think how lucky I was that my father gave me the greatest gift of growing up in such a diverse land, ripe with experiences that a child growing up in the city could never imagine. He gave me a childhood full of trips and sights and memories that will remain with me forever, and I hope he knows how much that means to me. In fact, I really have to tell him the next time we talk, because so often we take for granted that its already known, when in fact, hearing the words means everything.
My dad had to go home yesterday, and with everyone getting back to their schedules the house seems strangely empty. The remnants of the holiday are needing attention – spending time with dad was much more important than cleaning house. And as I go around collecting odds and ends, every once in a while I get a whiff of Old Spice. The sense memory is so strong , it’s as if he were here.
I think I’ll put off cleaning one more day….