December arrived with a dusting of snow and a case of the sniffles.
I pulled out my box of Christmas Decorations. Not to decorate my house. Why bother? I won’t be here to enjoy it. My superfriend Emily has decided to get a tree for her little apartment and I am lending her all my gear. I love Christmas and have a small collection of dollar store fare that have graced little apartments all over the city, all the little apartments that have been my homes.
The little apartment on Gladstone had the tiniest little tree. I wasn’t going to Newfoundland for Christmas that year, my first Christmas away from home. I had started working at The Rivoli that September, and had found a friend in Nick. Nick and I worked the bar for the Wednesday night Pool League. One day he asked me if I was going home for Christmas, and I told him I wasn’t. Without hesitation, he responded with an invitation to go to his Mamas House on Christmas Eve. I have to admit, I was taken aback. We were buds, but not superbuds, and I was overwhelmed by the invitation. I was also weary. I didn’t want to force myself on his family, and didn’t want to be disappointed if he forgot, so I said yes, but put it out of my mind. A week before Christmas, we were pouring beers for our Pool Leaguers, and Nick started rifling off all the info for the celebration. He didn’t forget and I was so happy he didn’t. I went to his Mamas with Jello Shooters and sat with his family for a traditional Chilean Holiday Feast. We ate and laughed and opened presents and it was just lovely. For years afterward, I would spend my Easters and Thanksgivings sitting at that table. I can now offer salutations for all major holidays in Spanish. I slept like a baby that night.
Now, I wasn’t the only Newfoundland ex-patriot to fail to make it home for the holidays. My Christmas Day was spent with my friend Dave and a house full of Newfoundlanders, eating and drinking the day away. A Turkey Dinner with Salt Beef and Peas Pudding and so much laughing. There was so much gratitude in the air… we were so happy to be together. To have a place to go. To have a group of people to share the day with. To have that group of people to share the day with.
The next years apartment on Bloor Street afforded me a bigger tree. I had thrown my back out and didn’t think I’d be able to get a tree up the steep stairs that led to my palace, so I kind of gave up on the idea. But my friend Mitch, knowing how badly I wanted a tree, picked me up in his car and took me to the Dufferin Mall to get myself a tree. There were many to choose from and I was a tad overwhelmed by the selection. The kind man who ran the tree lot patiently showed us around, highlighting the benefits and prices of each tree. He finally came to a Nova Scotia Pine.
“She’s an East Coaster,” He said.
“Like me,” I responded, “I’ll take it!”
We strapped it to the roof, and went into the mall for decorations and a sit on Santas lap, and before I knew it, Mitch was hauling the other East Coaster up the narrow flight of stairs to my apartment.
Christmas Eve was spent with my Chilean Family. That year, I’d taken to making Gingerbread men as gifts, and my Chilean Family sadly got the first batch. The first batch was baked before I realized that whole cloves can’t be substituted for ground cloves. Ever.
Christmas Day was spent that year at Jenny and Clintons. A small group of good friends eating the biggest Turkey I have ever seen, listening to stories from Jennys dad who I got to meet for the first time, and playing card games into the night.
Bloor Street saw another Christmas Tree the next year. And a package from my family that included all kinds of little presents. Chocolate and tea and a copy of the Newfoundland Herald. And a mixer. Sadly, I’d given up baking by that point. Or thankfully, depending if you’ve tried my baking before.
That year and the next, I spent Christmas in London with my ex-boyfriends family, surrounded by warmth and love and laughs, feeling like a home though I wasn’t ‘home’. And even though I wasn’t going to be in my apartment, I still had to have a tree. Last year, I bought a tree from Fresh & Wild at King and Spadina. Buying a Christmas Tree from a high end grocery store in the heart of downtown has its perk in convenience where it lacks in affordability, but getting it home on the crowded streetcar still makes me laugh to this day.
This year, I am going to be home for Christmas. It will be my first Christmas in Newfoundland in three years. I will put up my mothers tree, like I did every Christmas when I was little. I always put up the tree, set the lights and arranged the decorations. So why bother decorating my little apartment in Little Portugal when I am not going to be around to enjoy it?
I opened my box of decorations and organized it for Emily. I found a bunch of beautiful cards from last year and the DVD of a continuous roaring fire that will make me feel warm and clever till I someday own a home with a real fireplace. I found a couple of dollar store stockings, Christmas Themed Oven Mitts and Ugly Beautiful Candles that had travelled from Newfoundland in 2010, companion to the mixer and the Newfoundland Herald.
I closed the box with decorations in tact and organized for Emilys tree. But missing a strand or two of lights, my Bing Crosby CD and the dollar store stockings. The icicle lights are on in the window. The stockings now hang by the chimney with care. And I’ve listened to the CD four times on repeat.
Why bother decorating? Because it’s not in any way a bother.