Throughout my life I have always endeavoured to find the humour in the numerous mishaps, twists, blind hills and 911 calls my life has brought me. I have sat at my computer several times in the last few days, hoping to draw inspiration from some now-humorous event (let’s be honest, very few are funny at the time) to churn out another ‘life is like that’ kind of article. My family has endured some tragedies over the past several months. Watching my teenage daughter tearfully place ornaments on our fake Christmas tree, whose lights had ironically quit working, was a painful reminder of that. The morbid comfort I take here, is that we are among a profound number of people who have also endured a really crappy year. Is it possible to experience an emotional and disease infested recession? Any therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, Shaman, witch, etc. who can shed light on this for me, I’d be happy to hear that there’s an end to it beyond the theory of apocalypse. When my seventeen-year-old looks at December 21st as a hopeful event….yes, it’s been a rough road.
In order to bring some semblance of joy to my family this year it required a bit of an excavation. I found a company in St Albert who transfers videos of any media onto a DVD. Shoebox Digital. They promised quick, efficient, satisfactory service for less than most others I found. This was exactly what I needed. Considering that I had all but smashed our video camera trying to get the last mini VHS tape out of it to keep it from completely devouring it, further play on this camera was no longer an option.
I contacted the owner, set up a meeting time and gathered all the tapes I could find. Only a few were labelled. I was more than a little weary, but decided that trying to add some fond memories to our holidays outweighed any embarrassment I might endure. Placing the tapes in a bag I ventured off to find this company. The address brought me to a residential area as I realized this company was a work-at-home kind of venture. Five minutes in their company identified that they were a retired couple who enjoyed meeting new people. I was on my way to pick up my son from the airport so I didn’t have time to hang out, but thanked them and assured that there was no rush for these.
The next night I received a phone-call from Shoebox Digital asking if my husband was in the RCMP. Silence. How should I answer that? Frantically I tried to recall what may have been on those unmarked tapes. Would Dion have used our personal camera for work purposes? No! Of course not! Their cameras are much higher quality than our dinosaur! Was there something more incriminating that may result in an internet scandal? Nope. I’d definitely remember that. Having passed the point of awkward silence I decided to just throw it out.
“Oh, there was some Depot stuff on one of the tapes. I used to work in the detachment in Edson. My husband was an Auxiliary there.”
I’m sure my sigh of relief was audible. “Funny, we were posted in Edson for a while.”
Small talk, some more about Edson I don’t recall and then “So your tapes are done.”
“Um… I only dropped them off yesterday.”
“Oh, yes we got through them pretty easily.”
“Huh. Well, ok. Cool! I’ll be in the city tomorrow. I’ll stop by.”
I hung up the phone and relayed the conversation to my husband. He laughed, asking if I figured they watched ALL the tapes. I suspected so.
The next day I showed up at their house. Eager to retrieve my family’s memories. The couple began to relay how some of the tapes had minor damage (Minor? I was sure half the tape was balled up on my living room floor!) and then asked how long we were in Edson. The husband, reminded of the RCMP connection, left to get something. He returned with a plaque that he had received for his service. On the back, as is customary, were the signatures of Members he had served with. He commenced to call each name waiting for a response of recognition on my part. They, along with the members whose signatures where on his plaque, have been retired for a while. There was no such recognition. After combing through several names they then asked how long my son was in Air Cadets.
I opened my mouth. It hung awkwardly for several seconds before I closed it again.
They were able to tell me how lovely it was that we had renovated his bedroom while he was at Cadet camp and how sweet his reaction was.
Clearing my throat, I thanked them for their time and left. My eyes were wide as I closed the door and met my husbands’ quizzical gaze. Resisting the urge to yell “Start the car!” I hurried to the vehicle. Throwing the tapes in the back seat that had been lovingly placed in a Christmas gift bag, all neatly labelled with events and years, I buckled my seat belt, huffed and proceeded to relay all that was on the tapes.
“Did YOU watch the tapes?” He enquired.
“Oh, no need. I got the Reader’s Digest Condensed version.”
While they have a very personal approach, I must concede that Shoebox Digital did an amazing job with my videos and I would highly recommend them. Be prepared to share your memories!
Later that night, we gathered as a family ready to take a lighthearted look at our sorted pasts. As we laughed, ‘awe’d’ and denied family relations, an interesting phenomena began to unfold. As my teens watched their former selves in all their obnoxious, demanding and misbehaving glory, they became intimately acquainted with the ghost of Christmas past. My son realized I really didn’t exaggerate when I described his early years. It also became painfully obvious that he was the reason I was slimmer all those years ago. It was almost retributive to watch him yell in vain at his eight-year-old self in various stages of disobedience.
My daughter realized that she really was treated like the cute little girl she was, because she downright demanded it! Marching up to family members her arms shot up like a baby bird at breakfast and waited to be picked up and snuggled. When she was satiated, she would make a face and squirm until she was released. She was more ‘cat-like’ than she would ever admit.
My mother had promised me that my children would someday experience a re-attachment of their frontal lobes and they would be normal human beings, able to eat with their mouths closed, carry on more than thirty seconds of dialogue without losing the plot and, perhaps most miraculously, do their own laundry… properly. The older I get, the smarter my mother has become. She tells me she was always this smart, which is odd because when I was a teen she didn’t know anything.
The ghost of Christmas present has left many raw and broken. Enduring cancer, dementia, financial hardship, and grief from the loss of loved ones, many struggle to find something to smile about or look forward to. This is an unfortunate theme amongst many people that I know. For those that cannot relate to this, for those who have had an uneventful year filled with peace, comfort and joy… you suck. I mean, good for you.
In the event that the Mayan calendar keeper merely chose a more invigorating game of basketball to continuing the calendar past the 21st of December, I am putting all my chips on the ghost of Christmas future. Isn’t 13 lucky?
Feeling empty and unattached at the sight of the full, sparkling conifer, this year we decided that even the most twisted ugly things can be beautiful with some light. We’ve decided (and by we I mean me, but stick with it, the symbolism is downright tattoo worthy) to decorate a deciduous tree. We’re taking the Charlie Brown tree to a whole new level. Out with the fluffy, luscious evergreens. In with the twisted, lifeless poplar trees! Honestly, if people can hang their Christmas trees upside down from the ceiling or have pink fluffy trees, I think this really isn’t that far fetched. It will stand about twelve feet tall. It will be covered with lights and only lights. At its roots it will be surrounded by the love, generosity and creativity of the gifts we will share.
I don’t expect to start a trend. But if it does catch on, remember where you read it!
The ghost of Christmas present reminds me that I am surrounded by the most unconditionally steadfast of friends and the most accepting, loving and supportive of family. As I watch my children chastise their former selves on video, while sitting under an alder covered with lights, I am encouraged that even in the darkest night, a little light goes a long way.
Jennifer Barry is a writer for the Spectator Tribune.
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