4: A Christmas Dream

4: A Christmas Dream

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

A Christmas Dream

Canada is not a starting point, it’s a goal.

~Jean-Claude Falardeau

It’s stinking hot in KwaZulu-Natal. And drizzling. The air thick. My skin clammy. Our two children sit playing on the parquet flooring next to our South African Christmas tree, the tree we bought in a box ten years ago. Decorations are the dream of Canada. White cotton wool balls nestled between lifeless pine needles. A small red plastic bird. A knitted snowman with a black stitched grin.

I walk over to the tree; pull out a miniature brass wreath with the word “Peace” engraved on it. I caress the words gently between my fingers. I want peace. And our transfer to Canada will bring it.

South Africa has no diplomatic ties with Canada at this point and immigration is impossible unless my husband’s company transfers us. The company is reluctant. Its local staff is shrinking. Only magic can save us.

Out the corner of my eye I see the living room curtain ripple. Just once. I draw it open. Little rivers of raindrops trickle down the glass behind the burglar guards. Tears for a country lost.

We have sold our family home and are renting a townhouse. We are portable. And we wait. For days, weeks, months. I try to imagine Canadian life. Do people there spend a lot of time outdoors? How many fireplaces does each house have? Do Mounties patrol the streets? Is there dust there? And how cold is cold, really?

Restlessness brews in South Africa. May Day brings a tension, hanging thick in the air like the time before a storm. Pressure, power, passion. Change is coming and there will be thunder.

Finally, we leave South Africa during the African winter. Twenty-five degrees. I love my homeland but I don’t look back.

We arrive in damp dismal England where we visit the Canadian Embassy every morning to see if our Canadian work permit papers have arrived. We are stuck in no man’s land with two little children clinging to our hands on the overcrowded tube trains. Two weeks later we board the plane for Toronto and arrive during the Canadian summer.

The hot months are spent outdoors. In local and provincial parks, in lakes, and back yards. In no time at all the children have acquired Canadian accents, we have a new baby on the way, my husband is working and our feet are planted firmly on our new land. We buy a link home that doesn’t have even one fireplace and yes, although I don’t come across any Mounties, there is tons of dust.

Cold comes. And now we know what it is. Our noses tingle. Our denim jeans freeze against our skin. What a strange feeling! And then comes the snow, that first sprinkling in November. I scream to the kids, who rush outside and try to scrape it together. The neighbours start gathering to watch.

We jump right into winter in the north… skating, sleigh rides, and tobogganing. Cuddling under down-filled duvets with hot chocolate to watch TV specials.

The Sears Christmas Catalogue arrives and my six-year-old son gets to work on his letter to Father Christmas — sorry, I mean “Santa.”

“Dear Santa, How is Mrs. Claus? Please can you bring me 75849a, 75929b, 87332a…”

We have a lot still to learn about this festive time in Canada.

It’s just a few days until Christmas and memories of South Africa seem distant. Blurry. A time of days long gone.

Children’s giggles come from their rooms. I stroke my pregnant belly. The smell of gingerbread wafts in the air. The grocery cupboard is stocked and I am ready for the season. I walk over to the window and look outside.

The world is snow covered, fresh and white, iced onto lampposts and sagging green pines. All gleaming in the late afternoon light. A bright red cardinal hops onto the fence, shakes, and cocks its head as if listening intently. A round cheerful snowman sits in the front yard. Carrot nose, long woolly scarf, pom-pom hat. A crooked twiggy grin on his face. A huge Christmas wreath adorns the front door of the house across the street with the word “Peace” written below it.

Our South African Christmas tree has been brought to life.

A magic wand has been waved over the world and everything is beautiful, perfect. And free.

~Lesley Marcovich

Newmarket, Ontario

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