24 December 2005
Grandma Sat Down at the Piano
Cannot say I remember the first several Christmas days of my life. Every year there was a new baby to share it with though. I must have thought my mom was going to have a thousand of the screaming additions to the dinner table. I did my part as older brother helping bring them up - like teaching them how to throw their glass baby bottles against the wall when they wanted attention. You remember the god damnedest things of your little kid days. Those years were spent in the middle of a country nearly as young as my family. It was colder than anybody but the remotest Inuit and Antarctic researchers have experienced. One winter when I was skating around on the outdoor ice rinks of my early childhood it got colder than sixty degrees below zero.
When we went to church in those days the priest droned on in Latin. The only thing like it these days is watching an election debate on the TV.
The Christmas I do remember from those days is the one we spent on the west coast. The whole family took the train through the Rocky Mountains to a farm town near Dope City. I remember the train being steam powered but I was on so much medication to keep the overpowering winters from icing me up that my memories are like those of a man who buys his whisky by the case. From the observation car of the train at night me and my brother watched the Rockies and ate the cookies packed for the trip in hopes they would help keep us quiet. It was as though we were on a trip on another planet because where we were from there were no mountains except for the mountains of mosquito carcasses that built up in the short summer months. And I do mean short. On the first day of school for my first grade year it snowed.
It snowed and snowed while we stayed in a small cabin by a lake that Christmas. It snowed until it was over my brush cut head and then it snowed some more. It was fucking fabulous. It was cold where I was from but it never snowed like that. I went with my dad to cut a Christmas tree out of the forest. We decorated it in the warmth only a wood fireplace can provide. I don't remember any of the presents I got but do remember the Christmas tree tipping on me as I played behind it.
When my grandparents drove up to the lake from the city my grandma sat down at the piano and we all sang Christmas songs. On Christmas eve me and my brother and sisters opened the new pyjamas we got every year from the grandparents. I do not remember any presents Santa or anybody else got me that year though I am sure I was awake well before dawn to discover what was in my stocking hung by the big river stone fireplace.
Once Christmas was over we played in the deep snow for a week. I imagine the parents and everybody else got tanked New Year's Eve. People used to drink way more in those days than they do now. Then we got back on the train and headed back home to the outdoor hockey rinks of my youth.