When we first came to Canada it was a trial run over Christmas – not the time you would think is best to get an idea of the country. However, we were thinking of moving to Alberta, where the winter’s are harsh and temperatures drop to ridiculous lows -40 at times. Yes you read that right!
So why come in winter? Because we thought if we came in the most harrowing season and liked it then the rest of the year would be a breeze. Little did we know. The decision was made and we immigrated – there were many obstacles to overcome, too many to go through here that’s for sure – but we arrived in September 2007.
My first morning the sun was shining, the leaves were golden and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. If you have ever been to England we always have clouds. Then the next day it was the same, and the next. It was unusual to me but also pleasing. By the beginning of October we saw our first snow and it was a novelty. Big piles of snow (at that time) were rare in England so we took advantage of all the winter themed activities available. It was fun but as the years passed and the snow came early and stayed, the novelty soon wore off. Vacationing in a winter wonderland is very different to living in one – that was our lesson learned.
There are so few green trees during the greyness of winter and that is what I miss the most. The green lushness year round of England. Albertan seasons are not like ‘home’ – spring is almost an overnight experience – a faint green flush one morning and then the grey sticks of winter suddenly become vibrant emerald and lime green. Summer creeps in and heats up the land in some cases +40 (yes it is a land of extremes). Then fall (autumn to my English friends) comes turning gold and red but only staying for a brief while before the leaves drop.
The snow arrives normally before Halloween and leaves sometime in April or even May – it is a winter gripped land for a long time and we have to live with it. There are many devices that make the winter’s easier – winter tires (tyres), auto-start for the vehicles, so you can warm it up before getting in, in-door shopping malls, winter sports and events, fire pits and Jacuzzi’s.
It has been an adjustment for us all and over time we have found ways of coping but we all wish for one more day without snow! We know it is coming and cherish the time without.
I wish all my followers a wonderful festive time with family, friends and loved ones. No matter what ‘tag’ you wish to put on the season:
It is a time for everyone to connect with and enjoy the company of those people who are special to us.
I would also like to note that it is not always a ‘special’ time for some people and we should be conscious of their needs at this time of year (as at any other time). So if a friend or family member is grieving, allow them the ability to join in the celebrations if they wish but understand if they only want a one-on-one time. A full house of happy people might be too difficult to handle. Ask them what they would like or are comfortable with – that is your gift to them.
I am sharing lists of Christmas themed books as it is always the best way to enjoy the season of cold and snow. A warm fire, the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and a cozy blanket and cup of chocolate.
From the outside the Christmas tree glittered and sparkled with lights, tinsel and ornaments. It’s place in the bay window as always. Miriam gazed at the symbol of Christmas shining like a beacon of family and cheer. Pulling her coat more tightly around her, she walked on stopping at each window to gaze at the many Christmas trees on display along the street.
At the corner she entered the park, the light dimmed the further she walked away from the streetlights. The only beacon of light came from the old bandstand decorated for the season by local authority workers the week before.
She looked forward to attending the carol service the following week – a regular occurrence each year. After looking this way and that, Miriam pushed aside a panel on the side of the bandstand and crawled in.
This was home, a safe place hidden from sight and as comfortable as she could make it. A platform made of old pallets kept her off the cold wet earth, cardboard and an old single mattress on one side and food supplies on the other. She’d been able to hook up a little heater scrounged from a dumpster, to an electrical outlet on the underside of the bandstand to keep warm. To disguise her apartment she’d placed panels on each side so even if the workers crawled under they would not see her. Well, that was her hope.
A can of soup and a stale loaf made a meal and then she lay down to sleep.
Arthur tugged at his dog’s leash.
“Come on, Duke, its getting cold and I need a cup of tea.”
The old dog ignored him and continued to sniff the grass unaffected by his owner’s impatience. As Arthur tapped his foot, he saw a shadow approach the bandstand and disappear under it. Well that’s odd, it’s too late for authority workers and I can’t see a truck. Duke pulled on the leash and Arthur followed him down the path to home. The incident left his mind until two nights later when once again walking Duke; he saw the shadow repeat the disappearance into the bandstand. Now he was curious.
The following evening he walked closer to the bandstand but hid behind a clump of bushes. A figure appeared after sundown and with a glance back and forth crawled under. The person was wrapped up in an old assortment of clothes and could have been man or woman; it was too hard to tell. Was there a homeless person under the bandstand? Well that is sad. Once he returned home he pondered what would be the best thing to do. Report them? Engage them? Leave food and blankets nearby? I’ll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow.
Miriam saw a box to one side of her secret entrance and stopped in her tracks. Was it discarded, some local workers possession or something else? She looked around but did not see Arthur crouched behind the bushes. Cautiously she approached the box and raised the lid with one foot. Inside were cans and a thick blanket. Conflicting thoughts entered her head. Someone knows where I live, I’ll have to move, a kind benefactor has left me a gift, do I take it or leave it? A slip of paper fluttered and caught on the breeze, she grabbed it before it blew away. A hand written note read:
Please do not be alarmed, I will keep your secret but wanted to help you. I have put some supplies in the box. I know it is getting colder and food is probably hard to come by. I happened to notice you while walking my dog one evening. If you need anything my name is Arthur and I live at number 36 Amber Avenue just across from this park.
Miriam read the note twice, it was a long time since someone had been so kind to her. She made up her mind to thank him but to say this gift was enough.
The next evening she took her note and walked Amber Avenue searching the house numbers. To her surprise and delight, number 36 was the house of her favourite tree nestled in the bay window. Tiptoeing carefully, she pushed her note through the letterbox and turned away. A bark halted her tracks. Fearful the dog’s warning would alert Arthur to come to the door, Miriam hid around the corner of the house.
The front door did indeed open and a wet nose and wagging tail found her with ease, followed by an elderly gentleman.
“Well hello, you must be the mysterious bandstand occupant.”
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you, I was leaving a note of thanks. I don’t want to be a bother.”
“No bother at all, it would be lovely to have company, apart from Duke for a change. Why not come in for a cup of tea?”
“Oh, I don’t know, I’m rather dirty to enter a house.”
“Nonsense, just take off your boots, old Duke here comes in with more mud and dirt than anyone I know.”
Miriam took off her boots, curling her toes to try and hide the holes in her socks. Arthur led her into the front room, a fire flickered in the fireplace and that tree stood in pride of place.
“Oh, its so much more beautiful than through the window.”
Arthur smiled. “I always take pride in decorating my tree, the family only come on Boxing Day for the afternoon but its not Christmas without a tree, I always say.”
“I walk past all the houses and look at all the trees and this is my favourite.”
“Well, that’s is kind of you to say. May I ask your name?”
“Well, I will make the tea, why not take off your coat and sit by the fire?”
Miriam eased the coat off her shoulders and lay it on the floor. The warmth of the fire was wonderful. Arthur walked in with a tray with a teapot, cups and biscuits.
“Now we can get warm inside and out. Take as many biscuits as you like.”
With the strong tea and several biscuits inside her and the warmth of the fire, Miriam could feel herself getting sleepy.
“Thank you so much for the tea and biscuits and the lovely blanket and food. I should go before I fall asleep.”
“Well, it is up to you but you are more than welcome to stay if you would like.”
A tear rolled down Miriam’s cheek.
“Oh dear, I’m sorry did I upset you?”
“No, no not at all. It has been such a long time since someone has been kind to me, that’s all.”
“Well that settles it. Have a nap and then you can enjoy a bath while I make supper. I should have plenty of clothes in my closet you can choose from, we are close to the same size I think.”
“I don’t know what to say but thank you so very much, this is the best Christmas ever.”
“Tis the season, as they say and it brings me joy to help you.”
Bathed, dressed in clean clothes and feeling peaceful, Miriam re-joined Arthur later to find he had cooked a feast of a meal for them both.
“Are you expecting more people? There is a lot here.”
“No just us two but you are welcome to take the leftovers.”
“You are so kind, thank you.”
“And if I may, I would like to ask you if you would visit me from time to time, I get so lonely you see.”
“I would love to visit again.”
Their glasses clinked as they smiled at each other. Their loneliness forgotten.