This November CRAWLED by, probably because of the anticipation of the holiday season which is absolutely and cynicism aside, the best time of the year. This year marks my 24th Christmas of life and though I can’t pick out each and every Christmas I’ve experienced as good or bad, some stick out more than others. Today, we shall talk about my best Christmas ever which was without a doubt, 2004.
My first year away from home was hyper-real. I was living in residence and my life was summer camp with an academic twist. I had yet to discover or realize my full potential and direction in life and thus, was on the verge of failing what was undoubtedly the most difficult class for which to study, Classics 110.
When you live in residence, the most crucially important aspect of your life there is that of the ‘collective’, of people from various Alberta and British Columbia small towns that are not unlike your own, of people being away from home for the first time like yourself, of everyone studying together, living out the same gripes involving food, noise levels, the slutty girl at the end of the hall, and so on and so forth. This collective togetherness is eternally binding and makes each new experience heightened due to the Riders fan-esque mob mentality. The most collective of ALL of these experiences, was Christmas.
The anticipation to Christmas holidays builds – oh, how it builds. First December hits, then the end of classes, then there is this long stretch of studying.
Oh, studying. Studying in your fourth year in an apartment and studying with your friends in residence is a VERY different type of studying. In your first year, you have NO CLUE how to study. Your classes are over and you think, “hey, that’s it! Let’s go see a movie!” and you lollygag around and eat licorice and cookies and see how can throw dimes into the empty Tim Hortons cup in the middle of the cafeteria table, around which all of your friends are studying with you. You listen to loud music or worse, Christmas music, and you fill up “down time” with shopping, talking, staying up late, spicy fries and mischief. And then the exam comes and goes and you’ve done quite poorly. The good news is, it only gets better from then on. You learn your lesson and when spring rolls around, temptation is combated with a sense of duty.
I tried to make my first “finals season” fun; I remember one day, I practiced a vow of silence; surrounded by my friends, I wrote out my thoughts on a piece of paper which I passed like a note. They were annoyed. On another occasion, I exchanged pringles to my friends for facts abut Ancient Mesopotamia that I read emptily from my bland text book (which I was never able to sell, and still have today; an indication of my lack of study skills is that almost every single sentence in the ENTIRE BOOK, is highlighted in yellow. With messy scrawled meaningless half-asleep notes in the otherwise untouched margins). My friends stopped asking for pringles thereafter. On a third occasion, I wanted to see how much water I could drink before I couldn’t take it anymore and HAD to go to the bathroom. Also, our first finals began our habit of comparing each other’s habits from whether we push or pull gum from its cardboard sleeve, to the way our toes curl, etc.
I digress, however.
December hit in my first year and my friends and I went loopy for Christmas; we decorated our floor’s lounge with a tree and tinsel; we listened to Christmas music; we spent long, leisurely Saturday mornings eating brunch in the cafeteria, talking and comparing our family’s Christmas traditions, what we wanted as gifts, what we were going to get each other, our floor ‘Secret Santa’ and our families…we talked at length about how we were SO excited to go home, how the term had been so much fun but nothing compared to being at home and eating delicious food and having our parents load up the house with all our favourite things… the joy of leaving home in short, is the joy of coming back as a guest.
During exams, I was dizzy with Christmas spirit. We played holiday music non-stop and the television in the lounge, when it wasn’t playing the log channel, broadcasted a fine upstanding Canadian youth holiday tradition, the “Much Holiday Wrap”. We went to Old Navy and bought flannel Christmas-print pajama pants and wore them to the cafeteria every day.
Classes ended and delirium only got worse there on in.
My last exam of the term was English. I hated English in my first year (but that’s another story) and the exam ended at 11 a.m. I RUSHED out of the exam room with great strides and bolted from the business building back to Lister, got a coffee, and lay on the floor making weird noises (yes, I’m serious) with one of my friends who had also finished just that morning. We listened to loud uproarious music, celebrating the end of our first-ever university term, the end of exams, the start of our Christmas break. I packed my suitcase, full of new city-purchased clothes, and my roommate and I cleaned out our room (save for a slice of quiche that was forgotten in an unplugged fridge over the deserted holiday… oops).
I went home on the bus with my sister and when we got home my mom had cleaned the house and we had apple pie and hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches. I slept in MY bed, not that piece of shit rubber mattress I had been “sleeping” on the last four months.
Christmas in 2004 was like a renewed lease on life; it was such a joy to leave my hometown and come back during the holiday season to revel in all of home’s old comforts while at the same time, filled with new and boisterous experiences that had even at such an early point in my second phase of life, changed me for the better and made me a more enriched person than I ever had been. I saw a few old friends and classmates and saw them so differently than I ever had. I talked to my parents at length about my new friends in residence and all of the adventures we had been on and all of the stupid/hilarious/random things we had done. It wasn’t just Christmas; it was a reflection on how great it was just to be alive.
Christmases since have been wonderful; family-oriented ventures into excessive eating and great gifts and friends to share everything with. However, nothing compared to the freshness of coming back to the mountains after four months spent in Lister with a group of people who were just as excited about their first Christmas home as I was.