December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

Memories of my childhood Christmases drift in and out my thoughts tonight like the steam from the pot of soup cooking on the stove. Random memories: A live carp swimming around in the tub of our apartment in Kralupy, the whole room reeking of river water and father not quite sure how to do the kill; my parents and I, sitting in our living room in Toronto, singing carols and missing all the family we’d left behind in Europe; the Czech Christmas Mass my father played so much I still remember all the words. And later memories: R stomping around and ho-ho-hoing on the roof of the bungalow in Arizona, pretending to be Santa, and N wide-eyed with wonder below; N playing an angel in the church we joined on a whim and then left even faster, the giant tree we had a the house on Queen’s, too big for all our ornaments. Layers and layers of memories so many still full of magic and myth.

Last week, C next door gave me Sara McLachlan’s Wintersong CD. The first cut is a cover of John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over). I think Sara does it justice though I still hear John Lennon singing it with her. And it really hits home. As I’m flooded by the memories all those past Christmases, all of them rich and all of them safe, I think about how many people don’t have the luxury of safety. Tonight we’ll sit down, my parents and R and N and I, and we’ll add another layer to the memory bank, and we’ll all remember how very lucky we are to be here and together and, for now, without fear.

December 17, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas past

Yesterday and today were the first days this year that I felt anything remotely like the Christmas spirit. With R's annual Christmas melancholy from too much exposure to the commercial end of things at his work, and all the uncertainty linked to my finding a new job, and with Frodo's anal gland issues, we haven't been feeling all that joyous. N is complaining that Christmas is "disorganized" this year and she's right. We’ve shopped and I’ve wrapped some gifts already even, but it’s been a chore.

But yesterday I hauled out my CD of Czech Christmas carols, and my other favourite Christmas CD’s, and I dug up my copy of the Christmas recipes mother got from the women at her work when she was 30, and I baked. And baked. And, elbow deep in flour and nostalgia, singing along to songs I’ve sung every Christmas since I can remember, something turned inside me and Christmas felt the way it’s supposed to. I think even N sensed it because she came into the kitchen and hugged me for no reason.

Today the CBC broadcast their annual Euroradio Christmas Music special "JOY TO THE WORLD”. Unfortunately, because we didn’t make it home from J & C’s party until 3:00 in the morning and so didn’t crawl out of bed until 10:00, we missed the first part of the broadcast and the part I would have been really interested in hearing, from Moscow. I love Russian music. Even so, the program and music were marvellous and managed to push the right emotional buttons. We put up our tree, a gimpy and lovely Charlie-Browner, and we welcomed Christmas. It’s here again; I hope I can hang onto it.

December 03, 2006

Bleak Carol

Yesterday, mother and I went to see the Vancouver Playhouse’s dark and twisted version of A Christmas Carol. Dickens meets Kafka. The reviews tout this as an original rendering and yeah, original it was. But does original equal good? Okay, some of the concepts were interesting and acceptable like for example: the actors playing furniture and other props as well as playing people. Overall though, the piece had no heart. No soul. And that’s a bad thing for a story which is essentially all about finding just that: heart and soul.

This version seemed to look at the ugly side of everything. Even traditionally “up-beat” scenes, where the characters were cellebrating Christmas, were dark-shadowed and mildly disturbing, Tiny Tim’s family were totally unlikable and verging on demented, and Scrooge’s nephew had an irritating laugh that made him appear to be partially insane. Maybe, and I don’t know this since I never read the book, that’s the way Dickens actually intended it; he did write Bleak House too afterall. Maybe the many film versions of the story are sentimental and romanticized. But I’d still choose them over yesterday's funhouse mirror version showing the distorted and grotesque characters and, judging from the weakened applause at the end, so would many other people in the audience. All in all, we left the theatre feeling disappointed and deffinitely un-cheered.

Today I finished my Chrismas cards. Great relief and just in time too, we have to send to ones to Europe off this week.