Flashback to Christmas, 1970. The home of W.’s parents. We made the trip there by train from St. Catharines during winter break from Brock U. It was a horrible trip. Half way there one part of the train got disconnected from the other part, the heat went off, and all night it seemed we had to huddle together to keep warm while listening to loud bangs and clangs, and being jostled and jolted around while they tried to get everything back together. I don’t know how factual all that is, but it’s what I remember. We were like jet lag zombies when we finally arrived. I had never met his family, and didn’t know what to expect. From all his talk about them I had some preconceived notions, but none of them involved balloons on the Christmas tree. I had never seen that before. Haven’t seen it since, either.
It also had dozens of used magic cubes from their little instamatic camera, hung up with bits of wire. The Christmas card clutter on the tv was a familiar sight, along with the constant arrival and departure of vast numbers of relatives and friends. There was food everywhere. This is the holiday I learned how to consume rum with the best of them. I learned how to play darts, and how to gamble away nickels in a card game called 31. I learned what it’s like to go to a New Year’s dance where everyone knows how to do at least three different kinds of wild polish polkas. It was a crazy fun time. I liked W.’s brother and his dad. I was tolerant of his completely spoiled little six year old sister. His mother was a lovely hostess and packed us a ridiculously huge lunch for our trip back.
I can’t explain why, in this picture, we appear to have matching glass eyes. Or what the heck we’re sitting on. Or why I’m wearing a corsage, or why a section of the sectional is shoved off into the corner by itself. I can, on the other hand, explain why my shoes are such a strange colour. They were a pair of white shoes that I loved so much I decided to dye them so they’d be good for the winter. I don’t think the shoe dye package said ‘anemic mink’, but I could be wrong.
This was our first Christmas together, and sort of a transition one, although we didn’t know that at the time. I got introduced to W.’s traditions, eventually he got introduced to mine, and finally, when we had our own family we made up our own way of doing things that worked best for us, taking the best bits from both. It’s what our own kids are doing now. This is the Christmas he gave me a beautiful blue parka (a portent of the future perhaps?) and I gave him a new pair of hockey gloves that he was so happy with he wore them for an hour around the house.
We went back to school on the train stuffed like turkeys. I must not have been too horrid as a house guest, because I got an invitation back for the following summer. By then the balloons would be long gone. The sectional would be back together. The turkey left overs would be just about finished up. We would be making plans to get married. Crazy how life whisks you right along when you’re not paying attention.