a goldmine of… spirit

23 December 2009

Today I’m back on the shuttle for one more time to the mall near my office for my Christmas “wine run.” I figure the LCBO will be MUCH more tolerable at lunchtime today than it will be tonight or on Christmas Eve when the line-ups at the cash registers trail to the back of the store.

When I get on the bus, the same “Christmas spirit” people who I eavesdropped on yesterday are talking again, and the woman is saying that she’s back to the mall to buy her own Christmas present because it makes her husband “too stressed out” to buy her one himself.

Maybe, as she said yesterday, she should just wait and buy herself a sweater she doesn’t want after Christmas at the end of the Boxing Day sales because it would be simpler for her and she’d get a better deal on it.

Okay, I’m being a little snarky.  But read on.

Then one of her shopping pals says she wants to buy the DVD version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and that it was on sale somewhere.

“Is that a Christmas movie?” asks the fella.

“Oh you must mean “Wonderful World” says our gal.

(Huh?)

“No, I think it’s called ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’” says her friend.

“There is no such movie called ‘It’s a Wonderful Life!’” says our champion of Christmas spirit. “Is there?” to me when I turn around in my seat, unable to contain my annoyance at her saying one of my very favourite movies doesn’t exist. (Snarkiness justified – right? Right?)

“It’s a Disney movie, isn’t it?” (Oh man, don’t get me started.  See?  SEE?)

“No. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is its name. It’s not a Disney movie. It is a great old holiday favourite from the 1940s starring Jimmy Stewart, and…” (to the friend) “…I hope you buy it. You’ll love it. It’s a story that reminds us about the meaning of Christmas spirit.”

Overheard on the complimentary shuttle from my office building to a mall at lunch today – two people discussing their desire to sustain the joy of the Christmas spirit and keep things simple:

Him:  “Yeah, like that Boxing Day shopping craziness – I don’t do that.”

Her:  “Really.  What people don’t realise is you get the sales all week – it’s Boxing Week!  You can avoid the crowds and shop a few days later.  You might not get the sweater you want, but you’ll get a good deal.”

Er… is that called good Capitalist Christmas spirit?

yorkshire sister

20 December 2009

I’m not a fan of greeting cards.  I think they’re a giant rip off, and usually I’d rather say what I want in a phone call or a gift or a visit. 

Nevertheless, sometimes they’re just the thing, like when your sister lives on a different continent and thinking that her receiving mail from family at home is a priority.  Like during the holidays. 

So there I am standing in the Hallmark section of a store a week or two ago looking for a Christmas card for Jane and I’m blubbering like an idiot amidst all the sugary sentiment and dreamy winter scenes.

A sister is a part of you – she is connected to all things and more than DNA.  A sister is always there in the way you see, the things you feel and how you feel about yourself.  And that magic doesn’t diminish when she moves across oceans. 

But it doesn’t make you miss her any less when she’s far away.  And I was missing Jane a lot standing in that Hallmark aisle at lunchtime.   

Yesterday was her birthday and I was thinking about her place in my life – from that stubborn and independent little pig-tailed girl, to the beautiful and content transplanted Canadian Yorkshirewoman she’s become. 

I love you sister.  No less than if you lived around the corner.  Thank goodness for technology.

(And many more and shut the door on ricky hubble…)

I usually find that having to hear someone’s private cell phone conversation in public is a minor annoyance. Sometimes a major one. But yesterday morning, not long before I reach my final stop, I hear the most wonderful storytellingest, sing-songiest poetic voice with a Caribbean or West Indian inflection, talking slowly and deliberately, with rising and falling pitch and pauses added for impact – I really want to stay on the bus and listen to the rest of the story.

“So I tried and tried to find it for her,” said the rich womanly voice, “but I searched and searched and searched and searched and it seemed to be nowhere at all – nowhere at all in this big, big city.

“So I tried and tried to ring her to tell her the unfortunate news, and the line was ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing and there was never, never an answer.

“And I thought that she had given me another number so I searched and I searched and searched and I found it in the bottom of my bag, so I rang that number and it rang and rang and rang and rang and then, she answered!

“Oh and we had the loveliest chat and we discussed another idea.  A great idea.  And so today I am off again in the city, and I’ll search…”

And as I get off the bus I think how nice it must be to turn every conversation into something that sounds like a folktale, to reflect one’s world as though painting a picture every minute.

Overheard on the bus today:

Kid One:  “What’s with you and Shauna yo?”

Kid Two: “Yo Nothin.  What you mean?”

Kid One: “Yo she changed her relationship status to single on facebook.”

Kid Two: “Uh… yeah… Whatev, yo man I ain’t talked to her much.”

As Kid Two carries on some awkward conversation trying to cover his I Was So Just Dumped shock, I wonder just how many social conventions this whole social media thing has changed amongst barely-teens and the rest of us.

But then again, I think as the kids disembark, maybe this situation wasn’t that much different 30 or 40 years ago.  Back then you’d just get another kid to tell yesterday’s “boyfriend” that you were through.  Today it’s pretty much the same thing only you get 462 other kids to tell him instead.

in which christmas begins

12 December 2009

I’ve always been something of a late comer to Christmas.  Part of that is hanging on to history and family tradition.  Growing up, Christmas really started around my sister Jane’s birthday on December 19th.  I’m kind of stubborn about not wanting to milk the hell out of something good, and I’m sure that’s to do with my parents and growing up too. Those of you who put up your trees in November probably have a more relaxed time of it and enjoy a good long holiday season.  But it’s my feeling and experience, that if I keep the time frame small, and the gift giving modest, then I really experience the spirit of the whole thing.  I’m probably sounding pious and judgemental, but it’s how I feel, and it’s how I enjoy the season. 

I’ve mentioned here more than once that in my family we’ve vastly reduced our gift buying in lieu of charity giving over the past few years.  And that takes much of the scramble out of the whole thing .  Still, there is some shopping to be done and that began for me this week.  There is a free shuttle to a mall close to my office, which I take advantage of during the week.  Shopping at lunchtime is substantially easier than shopping in evenings or on weekends, and it’s usually running over for one item or another.  However, I’ve already been elbowed by more than one intent shopper and snapped at by no less than three middle-aged Sears sales clerks seemingly five minutes late for their lunches.  “Christmas spirit, Christmas spirit…” I think to myself as one nasty clerk gives me the most amazing “you are a fucking idiot” attitude when I ask her if one particular item is on sale.  I’ll kill ‘em with kindness even if it kills me first.    

Today, Saturday, I Christmas shop in my Toronto “Beaches” neighbourhood and it is a really good day.  The shopping section is busy during all seasons, but today it isn’t any more of a bother, in fact it is rather wonderful.  Everything I could possibly need to buy is here.  Back in the 70s they built shopping malls to bring all this inside, but one thing they didn’t bring in is the neighbourliness. 

Sales clerks are chatty and pleasant everywhere.  In the linens shop everyone drops everything to gush over a new baby in a sling worn by his mommy, who had visited the store over the months of her pregnancy.  The hardware store has better buys in lights, batteries, paper, tape and random “man” gifts than anywhere else.  And an owner who will forgive the nickel you’re digging for at the bottom of your purse. 

The newsagent, with the best selection of magazines anywhere amongst my travels, who I had seen being so patient and kind to a mentally ill local only last week gives me a free Saturday paper.  And he knows exactly the magazine I’ve been looking for and tells me to come back Monday after work because it should arrive then.  The clerks in the beautiful little gift store completely understand that I need to poke around and look at every single thing only to buy one small stocking stuffer an hour later because everything in the store is something *I* think is beautiful even if it doesn’t fit the profile of any gift I am looking for. 

UK expats and others chat in the specialty handmade candy/British food goods store.  As people do in the independent book store while the clerk is taking down someone’s phone number to call after she gets a hold of a nicer looking copy of a particular book.  Dogs snub their noses at me as they wait patiently outside stores for their humans.  People and their computers loll about coffee shops.  Friends have beers and watch the curling match in the pubs. 

At the temporary Christmas tree lot at the park by the library, folks hold up trees for inspection and put wreaths and cedar garland in wagons alongside their kids. 

As I walk home, with the whirr and “ding ding” of the streetcar alongside, I’m thinking it’s been a really good day in my neighbourhood.  Today Christmas started.

she hasn’t changed a bit

9 December 2009

She started to talk when she was one and she never really stopped.  And now she’s one of my favourite people in the world to talk to.  She was a little older than that when she got famous in our family for asking for broccoli (“barkly”) for breakfast.  Later she turned herself into a vegetarian.  She loved music, listening to it actively from the time she sat in a baby chair.  Today music is still about her favourite thing and if she makes you a mixed CD you’re lucky because she’s insightful and knows what you’ll like before you hear it.   She was bright and cheerful and made being a new mom pretty wonderful.

Oh yeah – and she still smiles just like that.

 

Happy birthday Carly.  At 27, you’re as much of a joy as you ever were.

(and many more and shut the door on you know who)