Over the last five years or so, I’ve given a lot of thought to what different holidays mean to me. This was caused mostly by the fact that the nature of my family was changing drastically from year to year and in turn, each approaching holiday seemed to take on different meanings, depending on the circumstances of the day.
Thanksgiving used to be my favourite. I liked the weather and the autumnal look of things. (My wife can attest that I even like saying the word autumnal). The air was crisp. I liked the food even if my mum seemingly forgot to use the salt-shaker from time to time. As a sports fan, there’s no better time. All the leagues are up and running and watching a game with family members is an easy-going way of spending time together with no thought of controversy or political disagreements. This time of year always reminds me of my father-in-law and his love of the CFL. And he loved every team. In his fifty year career as a public speaker, he worked for all of them at one time or another. “They’re a great organization”, he would say. He’d said it about all of them. Many times.
I liked the smells of Thanksgiving. I liked the idea of family-style cooking. Quantities of food to be shared, to be made together, the scents permeating through-out the house. It didn’t matter if you lived in a small townhouse or an expansive mansion. Home cooking smells the same everywhere as long as you’re at home.
But then things started to change. As my parents got sick and then left us and then my wife’s parents did the same, holidays didn’t feel like anything special anymore. There were too many other things to worry about, to take care of, and we couldn’t afford the luxury of celebration even if we wanted to. The smells from the kitchen were gone, the idea of sitting around the TV watching a game seemed quaint.
It’s very easy to forget what made the holidays so special when what made them so special in the first place no longer remains. These days are a Rorschach test. They are what they are to different people at different times. Christmas and anniversaries and birthdays can be the most lonesome of times for some people who have suffered a recent or not so recent loss. I know the feeling. I think the pendulum is swinging back in a positive direction for me though. It’s been less than a year since we’ve lost my wife’s parents and we’re still approaching their birthdays and holidays for the first time. But as grief subsides and laughter and good memories take up most of the space in my mind, I think I’m going to start enjoying the holidays again. It’s what they would want.
So for Dave, I’ll crack a bottle of beer and watch the Grey Cup and cheer for both teams because they’re both great organizations. And for Diane, we’ll celebrate the anniversary of her birth on Christmas Eve and see as many Quebecois plays as we can find. Sometimes rediscovering what you’re thankful for is something of a renaissance. And I know what I’m thankful for.