Memories are made of this - Keith Roulston editorial
While millions of Canadians fret that COVID-19 restrictions are limiting their creating a memorable Christmas, I’m willing to bet that 20 years from now, people will talk more about Christmas 2020 than either Christmas 2019 or 2021.
We were talking about it at our house the other day – how somehow the special events that go wrong create the most indelible memories compared to those that go smoothly. Our most memorable Christmases, anniversaries and summer vacations verge on Home Alone status.
Oh, I have childhood Christmases that bring back wonderful memories, like the year my grandfather bought me a tricycle. Still the Christmas that has the strongest claim on my recollections was when I was in Grade 5 and contracted rheumatic fever, an unheard of disease today, but one that could leave children with permanent heart damage.
The accepted cure at the time, aside from relatively new antibiotics, was bed rest and, since there was no free medical treatment yet, that meant my parents set up a bed for me in one end of the living room. Come Christmas dinner, I was carried to the table to join the rest of the family. When the meal was over I tried to step away from the table on my own, but my legs, unused for a month, collapsed. Oh the humiliation for a boy just on the edge of puberty.
The granddaddy of disastrous Christmases came while our kids were still young. My extended family was gathering at my parents’ house in Lucknow for mid-day Christmas dinner and exchange of gifts.
It was a cold morning and when I tried to start the car, the battery was dead. We had but one vehicle at the time and no jumper cables so that wasn’t an option. I took the battery out and carried it into the house in the hope that if it warmed up it might provide enough power to start the engine. It didn’t work.
Finally we broke down and called a neighbour, interrupting his own family celebrations. He came with his tractor, using jumper cables to start the car and his snowblower to clean up the lane so we wouldn’t get stuck.
We’d been keeping in touch with the family, telling them our progress and we were already late. We jumped in the car, now, and got about five miles before thickening snow squalls finally made us give in and return home.
The family in Lucknow had to do without a jellied fruit salad but otherwise had a full Christmas dinner. We had sandwiches and jellied salad – the latter for multiple meals because we’d made enough for 25.
Our 40th wedding anniversary also provided opportunities for memories of things gone wrong. Our kids had pooled their resources for a special celebration, booking a nice Toronto hotel and tickets for The Sound of Music for the Sunday afternoon. As the day went by, rumours circulated of a storm approaching from the west. Should we skip the theatre and get home? Because of the specialness of the occasion we went to the theatre.
By the time the show was over, it was getting dark. We crept westward along Hwy. 401 and then onto regional roads. Monday morning we’d be putting together the thick Christmas issue of The Citizen, so we needed to get home.
When we entered Huron County there was no signal that the county had pulled its plows off the road. We soon hit a drift half as tall as the car and were stuck. We abandoned the car, approached a nearby lighted farmhouse, pretty much invited ourselves in and tried to sleep on living room chairs.
A couple of hours later, I saw someone wading through the waist-deep snow around our car and a couple of other abandoned vehicles. I went out and it turned out to be a friendly OPP officer I knew, who called a friendly tow-truck driver who hauled us back to Blyth in time for breakfast and to go to work.
I’m glad our kids had opportunities to enjoy many summer holidays at their maternal grandfather’s cottage, because our one and only camping trip was awful. It was before we had a mini-van, so packing took intricate planning.
We chose Sauble Falls at the end of June. It must have been the coldest June 30 on record, That didn’t stop the people in the next tent from partying all night.
July 1 we went to Sauble Beach but it was so cold we were the only people there. We gave up and stiffly headed home.
We stopped in Kincardine and when we came out from shopping, discovered we had a flat tire. The jack and spare tire were, of course, buried under luggage. We dug them out, then found out the nuts holding on the wheel were seized. Then the car fell off the jack.
We can laugh about it all now. There’ll be things about COVID–Christmas that will seem funnier in hindsight. Just try to make the most of these restricted circumstances — and stay safe!