* It’s that time, Christmas time is here
Everybody knows there’s not a better time of year
Hear that sleigh, Santa’s on his way
Hip, Hip Hooray, for Christmas Vacation*
Writing Saturday morning December 24th, 2016.
I wake up in a children’s bed in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Celine had let me borrow her niece’s bed for my first Canadian night. I rub the dream crusts out of my eyes, scratch the poor ol’ gulliver and take a look outside the window.
Behold a wonderful white deck of fresh snow. The white Christmas I was dreaming of.
Tonight’s my very first American Christmas and I feel super charged. Rumor has it we’re celebrating in Mono Mill, a town a little over an hour away. We’re expected at the Christmas dinner table of Stephanie’s (Celine’s sister) in-laws. And since the place is so far away we’re taking our sleeping gear with us to spend the night all together. And spend another Christmas day filled with food and candies the day after!
So at about 4 pm, after spending the entire afternoon in our onesies watching ‘The Polar Express’ we start to get ready to take the drive up to the North Pole. Err, I mean Mono Mill.
Just before we got out of the house and into the car I had a chance to Skype my parents and wish my family back in Belgium a Merry Christmas. They were already rounding up their Christmas celebrations. Having dessert. Unwrapping presents. Topped with some annual good old drama.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family but every year for Christmas there’s always a little bit of tension going on. I guess that’s what happens when you have a bunch of different minds and characters crammed into one space together. I was looking forward to a drama-free Christmas and checked with Celine in advance if her family usually has a lot of dramas this time of year.
Celine: “No, we don’t. But this year is a little different since we’re invited over to spend Christmas with my sister’s in-laws. There will be some neighbors and other people I’ve never met before.”
Me: “I see…”
Either way, I was feeling pretty good about it. And I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that Canadian turkey! Gobble gobble!
Too bad it exploded the day before…
A firm hour and a pair of numb butt cheeks later, we arrive at Casa Christmas! The place is beautiful. And huge! We’re sleeping over with 15 people and there will be a total of 20 something people coming over to have dinner. Inside the house is decorated with wooden floors, a big American kitchen, christmas lights and a stunning tree. I feel at home right away! Especially since Leona and Carl, who were hosting, were such nice and welcoming people.
Leona and Carl: “Say, you’re not Chinese.”
Me: “Ahm…no I’m not…”
Leona and Carl: “Well we thought you would have been since we heard Celine had met you in China. How funny we just assumed, right!”
Me: “Hilarious :-)”
Carl: “So where are you from then?”
Me: “I live in Belgium.”
Carl: “Belgium hey? Well sit down I’ll get you some Canadian brew.”
Waw, what a lovely home. I was just about to print out some adoption papers to slip under these people’s noses later tonight when all of a sudden the door bell rings.
Leona: “Oh hi-de-ho neighbors come on in!”
It was a woman of around 60 with her two daughters and her husband coming through the front door. They looked like a lovely family. No drama hazard here!
I hopped over to go meet them and shake their hand when I suddenly came across a fifth person entering with the bunch.
Better known as ‘Marg’. A 5 foot 8 dame that has been walking this planet for 81 years straight. Unlike her daughter Debbie she doesn’t live next door but in an apartment in Toronto. She just tagged along for the occasion.
Her fingers were incredibly long and lean, I noticed, when she came over to shake everybody’s hand.
When she arrived over to where I was seated -minding my own business, quietly enjoying my Canadian brew- she hunched over to me, sniffed up my perfume, looked me straight in the eye and asked:
“And who might you be dear?”
Me: “Err, my name is Evelien. I’m Celine’s adopted Chinese daughter…*grin grin*”
Marg: “A smarty mouth hey?”
Me: “No, ma’am. I’m just visiting from Belgium. I come in peace.”
She didn’t bother to go into the conversation any deeper and continued her stroll around the house.
Marg: “Thank you for having me Leona, …
Leona: “Oh no problem dear. What can I get you to drink?”
Marg: “You know my drink. Rye with ginger ale and water.”
Leona: “Coming right up!”
I was amazed by this woman. She was turning 82 next week but she was walking around the house as if she was the Queen B. She had this super intense aura over her and -by the looks of it- enjoyed male attention very much. Except for that of her son in law. You could tell she hated his guts. When he accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee, her eyes shot laser beams.
Apparently he had always let her walk all over him and never managed to get rid of her bullying since. He was whipped.
Marg: “So have they got houses like this where you come from, Evelien?”
I was a little offended by her asking me a question like that. As if I came from some hillbilly country where we live in containers. But I guess she was just looking for a fresh and spineless fiddle to fiddle. I wouldn’t let her tickle my nerves that easy. She likes to provoke people and make them feel uncomfortable in her presence. I looked through her game straight away. Heck, I invented that game.
Me: “Yeah we have houses. We build houses like crazy.”
Marg: “So what brings you to Canada for Christmas, you don’t have a family?”
Me: “Well, I’m not an orphan. My family’s at home celebrating Christmas right now. It’s ok, they understand I have places to see, people to meet. We did our Christmas dinner a week earlier.”
Marg: “So you travel a lot hey?
Me: “Yes ma’am.”
Marg: “So what do you do? In life? What do you do?”
Me: “Well …. (I decided not to give her the long story about me taking a gap year and all. I just send her off with the short summary)”
Marg: “Oh you write for the paper? Do you have any kids? A man in your life? So you have nothing hey?”
Marg sure was testing the waters there.
Me: “Nope, I’m a free bird”, I replied with a straight face.
Marg: “Hahaha, free bird hey? Good for you. I’m gonna go smoke a cigarette. Anyone who feels like joining me, I’ll be in the barn.”
I don’t know what it was that got me all worked up but I felt a tantrum coming up and I was aiming for the snack bowl.
I have nothing? That’s not true. I have a lot. It’s just not a house. Or a husband. A pension fund. A hospitalization insurance or a presently well defined job for that matter.
Next time when I meet people and they ask me what I do, imma be straight up and say:
“I’m a 28 year old kid in the middle of an existential crisis walking around with monopoly money bluffing her way through town hoping she will make it at the end of the ride. I’m freaking Peter Pan and all I want for Christmas is for Tinkerbell to light my path and to hang out with the Lost Boys.”
Marg: “So is this free life working for you?”
Me: “Sure…” (liar, liar pants on fire!!)
Marg: “Do you want a husband and kids?”
Me: “I don’t know… Maybe one day.” (stupid Grinch, give me my Christmas back!)
Marg: “How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?”
Me: “28” (Going on 92)
Marg: “Oh, you’re a baby! The best is yet to come.”
Me: “Yeah right. Not to be rude or anything Mrs. Grinch -err- Margaret, but I feel the best has already been had. I’ve had the settled life, the career life, I was a question at the annual quiz of my birth town in 2015, … Honestly I feel I had all the cards dealt to me once and I royal flushed them all down the toilet. It’s all downhill from here.”
Celine: “Stop it! If you think that, then that’s what you’re gonna get!”
Marg: “Just ask yourself a basic question: what do you want?”
Me: “In life?”
Marg: “Yeah, in life, what else?”
Me: “… I don’t know. I don’t know what I want… Do I even have to have a destination in mind? If you live in the now isn’t that the worst thing you could do?”
Celine: “Well you have to let the universe know what you want in order to get it.”
“Is the universe really concerned about me getting what I want? Why would it give a rat’s ass? Do you really think the universe wants us to have a nice Christmas Eve together? Earn a lot of money? Build a lot of houses? Do you really think the universe cares?”
Marg: “Were you traumatized as a kid or something?”
Me: “No, I just question my entire existence a lot. It doesn’t make sense to me why we’re here. It doesn’t make sense to me that we are born into this world that destroys oneself with war and terrorism, it doesn’t make sense to me that we are born into this system that expects us to clean up other people’s shit all day just so we can have a comfortable old age. It doesn’t.”
Marg: “Your life is just beginning. Believe me. Take it from someone who has lived a long one: live in the now. Enjoy your life now. Before you know it you’ll be walking in the mall looking at your reflection in the mirror wondering who that old woman is. Life has its ups and downs. You will have bad breaks and disappointments, but don’t give up on life. Live it. There are wonderful things coming. Things you will want to work and live hard for. So live.”
Bangarang! When did Mrs. Grinch turn into Wendy Darling?
The Grinch was right. Or maybe it was the bottle of rye inside her blood that was right. I definitely want to live and work hard for the things I love. Traveling the world to discover all there is to know about life. Picking up stones and discovering what lies under them. Looking into mirrors and understanding everything there is to be seen in them. And one day I would love to love again. Deeply. Profoundly.
My wandering thoughts were interrupted with a deep grunt of discontent =>
Marg: “Well it’s already past my bedtime. Son in law! Haul the truck we’re leaving.”
As she was waggling towards the cloakroom to get her coat, I ran in behind her.
Me: “Marg, wait!”
“…Do you have like an email address or something?”
Marg: “Me…? What, you want to send me an email?”
Me: “Well I would very much like for us to stay in touch. I didn’t think it straight from the beginning but… I think you kinda rock.”
Marg: “Well *cough* I, ahm, I ….”
I think I had just made the Grinch blush.
… Before she turned into her old sassy self again.
Marg: “Well I can’t email on Tuesdays….
… But I would love to stay in touch.”
She scribbled her email address on a napkin and handed it over to me with eyes as soft as velvet.
Marg: “You are a truly gorgeous girl and you will have your ball. Just never give up on that.”
(Enter narrator’s voice:)
It was the night the Grinch stole Christmas.
And returned it the same day.
*Merry (belated) Christmas to every single one of you*
Read all about me arriving in Toronto, visiting Niagara Falls and smoking the christmas tree next time on the blog. Gobble gobble!