Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Meaning of Christmas

“Do you know what Christmas means?” the nice church lady asked.
     “It’s when Santa brings toys,” Kaitlin answered brightly. Only three, and already one with the zeitgeist.
     The woman’s eyes narrowed. “But why does Santa bring toys? Why does he come at all?”
     Kaitlin pondered the question. Understanding dawned. “Because it’s a special day,” she said. “It’s the birthday of the little baby—” (they exchanged anticipatory smiles) “—JESUS FUG-DIN CHRIST!
     Rictus grins all round. I recognized her intonation, and the adjective. Yes—both mine. Just that morning I’d nailed up some Christmas decorations and, well, I’m no carpenter.

Image: Dremel Europe

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Your service level’s falling.
Although the streetcar’s fully packed,
The supervisor sends it back.
These short-turns are appalling.

Your fares keep going higher
These tickets bought a year ago
Now need another nickel, so
I’ll try to sneak it by you.
Your subway’s overcrowded.
The people packed at Yonge and Bloor
Have not been home in days, I’m sure
Weren’t you once applauded?

If you can stand to, sing this to the tune of O Tannenbaum.

Bump and (Petty) Crime

So my son’s band was the opening act for a Christmas fête at a local burlesque bar. I was okay with the venue and all its near-naked festooning. Blending music with unorthodox activities is something of a Leclair tradition. Pépe David fiddled between grave digging, Pépe Tootes played spoons while distilling his potatoes, and my dear father yodelled over the waterways of Lake St. Clair, running his booze to Abars. But we also had our classy side: My great grandméme Léticia, with her ability to balance on a champagne glass and simultaneously sing La Pitoune, was the toast of Cyrville.
Waiting for The Detours, at The Painted Lady by YJB Images

Friday, December 19, 2014

Crushed Angel

Under Mrs White’s direction, the Kindergarten nativity scene had been meritocratic enough to please Ayn Rand. Besides the hierarchy of the Holy Family, with Joseph as its also-ran, we’d been arrayed in satisfying ranks from angels to beasts to shepherds.
     But now in Grade 1, under Miss Meekin’s more Bolshie eye, we were each to contribute a letter and verse to a communal spelling of “MERRY CHRISTMAS”. There weren’t even costumes.
     “I is a icicle,” I practiced sullenly – I, who had led the Kindergarten archangels.
     “I is an icicle,” my mother corrected.
     “Miss Meekin says a icicle,” I said, crushed.

Image: Costume Craze.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Christmas Miracle

Caracas, December, 1999. I’d just been hijacked and robbed. I sat in the back of a car, my assailants nattering in Spanish about what to do with me. I saw the dim lights of a smoky barrio high above. Not there, I thought. I don’t want to end up there. Or in a ditch. It was pissing down rain—I’d never be found. We entered the city. Why didn’t they stop? I saw a sign, bright, festive, incongruously familiar. “Feliz Navidad,” I read, thinking I was dead. They turned at the sound of my voice. “Navidad?” one asked, suddenly grinning.

Image: Levoniust

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Carol at the Office Party

Come they told me,
     pa rum-pum pum pum
It is compulsory,
     pa rum-pum pum pum
And Secret Santa too,
     pa rum-pum pum pum
Will need a gift from you,
     pa rum-pum pum pum,
     rum-pum pum pum,
     rum-pum pum pum,

And so to keep my job,
     pa rum-pum pum pum,
I will come.

     pa rum-pum pum pum
The drinks are watered down,
     pa rum-pum pum pum
And now they’re carolling!
     pa rum-pum pum pum
I cannot stand this thing,
     pa rum-pum pum pum,
     rum-pum pum pum,
     rum-pum pum pum,

Then she smiles at me,
     pa rum-pum pum pum,
I succumb.

Photo by Ron Sumners.

Monday, December 15, 2014

While Shepherds Watched (and stewed)

In a gobsmacking move of miscasting, Mrs. Desjardins chose Christine to be Mary for our grade seven Christmas play. Having always demurred at necking parties, I was patently more virginal, and with my goaty black hair and unibrow, fit the Zeffirelli Madonna ideal far more than she, with her long blonde tresses and grey eyes. Instead, I got the Rice-a-roni job of shepherd, me and the other Pike Creek kids. So I refused to join in with the communal “Blessed be the Baby Jesus”, opting instead to grind my teeth to the pa rum pum pum pum of righteous indignation.

Photo from OnlyTreasures on Etsy.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Little Lord Jesus No Crying Doth Make

My friend Mary’s baby won’t cry. His pediatrician got him a referral to this psychiatrist who says little LJ could be autistic, but they can’t tell till he’s three months old so for now he’s just “unresponsive”. Mary’s doctor sent her to a just regular psychologist who thinks little LJ won’t express his feelings because Mary won’t express hers. And it’s true, Mary has been kind of a mess after getting pregnant by another of her invisible narcissist exes, this one a real fruitcake who’d hold animal “sacrifices” on his patio, but she talks about him like he was God.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Pudding

Gorged on bird and carbs, the palate requires a light cleansing. Something healthy, fruity, with a hint of summer. Perhaps something with plums?
     I agreed enthusiastically. English future-Dad-in-law disappeared into the kitchen for what seemed like ages. There were curses. There was clanging. Others were called in for whispered consultations. My glass was filled repeatedly. Silly me—colonial me!—my mouth watered for pie. Finally the lights dimmed, a hush fell. Family members leaned forward expectantly. Then Paterfamilias reappeared, balancing a shimmering blue blob of glutinous suet.
     That night I joined their Christmas tradition. Years later, I still crave pie.

Image: Moel Faban Suppers

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So, maybe it is the thought that counts.

I get little pleasure these days just shopping for gifts, but I’m not so far gone I can’t still get a kick from making an otherwise pedestrian present just a little bit awesome.
     And so, the young science-fiction fan gets his copy of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it comes wrapped in a towel. The wife gets that matching set of mugs, but they come filled with Hershey’s kisses and gummi-bear hugs.
     And the neighbour who voted Rob Ford for mayor gets his Robbie Bobbie bobblehead, but it comes with the cutest little hammer you ever did see.

Monday, December 8, 2014

It’s all sabot the chocolate

For years, thanks to our German neighbours, we’ve awakened on December 6th to find that St. Nicolas visited overnight and stuffed our shoes with candy. It was lovely: A quaint and restrained practice during such a Walmarty season. And the treats this Nick character brought were superior to our usual stocking fodder. Yet, it’s curious that both customs use footwear of a kind, and those less greedy for Oma-packed chocolate might question the wisdom of ingesting food stored in something that’s been on a teenager’s foot. Not us, though; and our haul increased each year as Dan’s feet grew.
Image from the St. Nicholas Center.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Getting Drunk at Christmas

What is it about Christmas that makes getting drunk such an institution? We know it couldn’t be family, because mothers are against drunk driving. And now we know it couldn’t be Jesus either. Turns out he never turned water into wine. That’s a bad translation of grape juice, says the Christian Post’s party-pooping Reverend Mark H. Creech. So, it’s gotta be jolly old St Nicholas. Because he got himself sainted for saving three boys some madass had chopped up and plopped into a pickling vat. It’s in Nick's memory that we can get ourselves pickled at Christmastime. Dirty martini, anybody?

Image: William Hone’s Every-Day Book.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Sounds of the Season

The Sounds of the Season are ringing out at CBC today, “as we celebrate the holiday season with fans and raise thousands of dollars for GTA food banks.”
I’m all for a shindig. And this must be, what, the thirtieth year or so for this one? It’s an institution. Today many people will run in to throw some shekels in a hat and nudge past some kid on a crutch to get at Shakura S’Aida. (“God bless us, every one!” the kid shreiks embarrassingly: no sense of decorum, him.) Then it’s back into the Uber and on to Best Buy.

Image: CBC.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Gifts for Her

When people ask me what I want for Christmas, I usually fall back on something I heard some woman say years ago on the radio—and I always include this preamble.
     I cannot recall her name, but she was part of a regular panel on Morningside and the host, Peter Gzowski, was asking them all for their holiday gift suggestions. She was an older lady and she, like me now, felt she already had way too much stuff in her life.
     “Please, don’t give me anything for Christmas,” she said, “unless I can eat it, drink it, or burn it.

Out of the Snouts of Babes

What is it that propels us to put our lives and small intestines at risk by eating things children have made? We’ve all chanced the malarial lemonade stand and cootie-ridden bake sale. Yet the holidays offer an especial Logan’s Run of puerile poison and nothing evokes my inner germaphobe like having to eat something somebody else’s kid has created: A sticky paper plate tacoed by damp and bilious pizza, no-bake refrigerator cookies laced with a Russian Roulette of preschool effluvia or a grubby magic-markered mittful of popcorn. Class parties are probably the real reason why teachers need their summers off.

Image: Grin and Bake It.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Not Totally Shallow

Today at work I bought peanut butter macarons from students selling them in aid of Syrian refugees. This was so confusing. Part of my brain was thinking, peanut butter in a macaron, seriously? Part was thinking, a little salt and they'd be exceptional. Part was thinking – and I wish to point out it was a biggish part – that the Syrian refugees would think there was something shallow about this version of “Act locally, think globally”. I also bought a slice of chocolate cake with a peculiar extruded foam texture and pitched it after one bite. See, I'm not totally shallow...

Image: Whiskitforabiscuit. (They have the recipe.)

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