Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fast forward to Christmas

For Christmas this year, I'm going to be lounging on the beach in Jibacoa, Cuba. It's halfway between Varadero and Havana, with a living coral reef within swimming distance from the shore. I'll be there until New Year's. Then, it'll be Edmonton for a few days of shop-till-I-drop before coming back to the arctic, ready to take on another five months of winter.

This early part of the school year has gone by quickly. I can't believe it's been three months since my summer vacation. One month till Christmas break, till my winter tan, till a much-needed escape from the darkness.

When I was growing up, Christmas was never a big deal in my family. We had a tree, adorned with mostly homemade ornaments (and, in some years, some very tacky, jumbo balloons – My brother and I had thought it was a great idea.). We never had presents, and we never really thought to ask for any. When my schoolmates all talked about the gifts that they had received, I kept mostly silent, but never felt deprived. I had never believed in Santa, the tooth-fairy, or the Easter Bunny, but was perfectly content that my friends had, and it had never occurred to me to burst their bubble.

The Christmas that stands out in my memory is also the worst one. I was eight. My father had planned a yacht cruise for the family, but I was sick and was vomiting my guts out all day. Not wanting to ruin everyone's day, I had downplayed my illness, and had insisted that we went out into the harbour. That was the last time I had ever thrown-up. To me, vomiting was psychosomatic. At age eight, I had decided that there were better ways of dealing with being dissatisfied or unhappy. Christmas Day that year would stay with me, ingrained in my consciousness not for being the day I had a great time on the dinner-cruise, when Santa came and I received a present and played games (because I was feeling too miserable to really enjoy myself), but for being the day I started to gain control of my own life. It was the day I started to realize that I could be responsible for my own happiness.

The Christmas before coming up to Inuvik, I went to Christmas Mass for the first time. Although my father is Roman Catholic, I had never gone to church. I decided that year that I wanted the peace that church offered. And so I went to that beautiful cathedral in downtown Vancouver, joined the throng of people in the pews, and sang carols. I love that Christmas; I love that feeling of quiet solitude, of soulful connection with others, of knowing that there are still havens of peace in the world.

The Christmas craft fair happened this weekend in Inuvik. I went with a couple of friends on the opening day on Friday evening. We barely had breathing space as we shuffled our way down the aisles. I came away empty-handed, while my friend bought some Christmas gifts for her family. I'm lucky that I don't have to buy gifts for my family. This year, I won't be home for the holidays. I'll be out creating my own Christmas traditions, finding my own peace wherever I can.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy for you, that you've decided to go to Cuba! Don't forget to write about all the wonders there, and take lots of pictures. Postcards are in order!