Last fall, and without much thought, I found myself buying a train ticket to the east coast to spend the holidays with friends. Christmas 2007 was the first Christmas I’d ever spent without my parents. I wasn’t sure what to expect. A complete change of scenery seemed like a good idea.
I was able to get a roomette for the overnight portion of the journey. Apparently VIA has generally discontinued the use of this equipment, opting instead for more opulent double rooms and suites, but for those of us who travel solo, roomettes are still the best way to go when we can get them. Between freight taking precedence and the snow, all my trains and connections were late, but I really didn’t mind or care. I was prepared with my new MP3 player, a very thick book and my knitting. Yes, in the wake of losing my mother, I seem to have taken up knitting again.
My dear friend and fellow writer, Kathy Mac, met me in Moncton and drove me back to her new house in Fredericton where I was met by a flurry of dogs, as well as her husband, her Dad and her Dad’s new girlfriend. Still others joined us for the Christmas feast. Although I missed my folks, I also felt at home and part of the celebration. Much of the holidays were spent doing plenty of nothing. After the family stresses of the last several years, that was a very welcome change and relief. The dogs had to be walked every day, so that was a good excuse to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise, but other than that, we talked and read and just hung out.
After a week in New Brunswick, it was time to re-board the train and head back, but not to Toronto. I stopped en route to visit my friend Péter in Gatineau. Here again, I was met at the train station and driven home where I was met by the flurry of a singular dog. We celebrated New Year’s with additional friends and a sumptuous feast, enjoying the goofiness of ringing in 2008 with dollar-store noisemakers and glow sticks. Much of the week was spent chatting, showing each other interesting Internet finds, watching movies and just hanging out. Of course, the dog had to be walked, so again that was an excuse to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise.
After two weeks of lying about, I came home five pounds heavier, carrying additional luggage, and much to the relief of my lovely feline beasties. The trip was a real and necessary time-out for me, a chance to reset the dials of my daily life. With so much of my time and energy having gone into parental care throughout my adult life, especially these last few years, not having that pull takes some time to get used to. While it’s liberating, it’s also kind of strange. It’s a major life adjustment that I’m still settling into. Although I’m getting a lot more writing done, I don’t yet know how to fill all this time.
While many Torontonians have been griping about this winter, with its snow and wind and cold, I’ve actually been enjoying it. This is a real winter, a real Canadian winter, at a time when we’ve become complacent about what that entails. But come on people, we live in Canada! We do get winter! Frankly, I’d rather have this than the messy, slushy overcast we usually get. This winter, it’s beautiful to look out the window. It’s a celebration of light. And while I’m hibernating perhaps even more than usual, it’s easier to take when I can look out at something joyous.
I am very fortunate to have good friends, people who understand me and are unquestioningly supportive; people I try to be there for when they need me too. I’m grateful that I was able to spend time in the homes of good friends through what might have been a rough couple of weeks otherwise. As the years continue, I’m sure I’ll come up with new and different ways to negotiate this season, but we certainly got it off to a fine beginning.
© Catherine Jenkins 2008