Canadian holidays


By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Lambda rep...

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Of late I have been more immersed in my family of origin than not. Number One Nephew’s situation resulted in a bit of “scheming” with my brother which resulted in N1, as of last evening, being safely in CB’s custody out in California. N1 sounded brighter and more hopeful than he has in a long time, and I know that my brother is tickled to have the boy out there.

We also have Mother for the week and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. She’s preparing to semi-retire and wants to use up holiday time before she plunges into the lap of leisure. Since we visited over the summer, I suggested fall for her visit and she agreed.

The interesting thing about all this is that for the first time in a long while, I feel connected to my own roots. Most of the time, family is Rob and the girls. His family and his in-laws. Physical distance keeps my side of the relations a strictly virtual experience although sometimes that’s more than enough. But having Mom here plus the hours spent on the phone with my brother in the last couple of weeks has brought up opportunities to talk about myself and my history. That’s not something that happens much anymore.

Monday evening while Rob was out fetching Dee from Girl Guides for me (he noted that I was exhausted and offered to go in my stead), Mom and I sat on the sofa in the living (I cannot tell you how long it’s been in days since I had a sofa or a living room) and talked. The discussion meandered but it centered finally on Will. Nothing earth shattering, but when I thought about it later, I realized that I don’t really talk about him. Because I don’t really have anyone with whom to talk about him.

Dee is uninterested in her late father. I doubt she will ever care much about him at all aside from the passing curious inquiry, if that. That’s as it should be. He was never her dad in an active sense, and she doesn’t need to be burdened with obligation to a memory. Will’s own mother bludgeoned him with his late father’s memory, and he resented it, and her, all his adult life.

Rob listens here and there, as I do to his occasional references to his late wife, but they have nothing to do with our life, us or our future, and so have no place outside the incidental in our conversations.

No one ever brings Will up. Until this past summer, when my sister DNOS surprised me with an out of the blue reference to Will, my family ignores his existence and have readily transferred Dee’s “ownership” to Rob, which probably reflects heavily our backgrounds as adoptees because we don’t place the same odd premium on DNA that most people do.

But all of these things remind me that I am not moored to extended family that is “my own” or to history for that matter. I am like a transplanted tree.

Mick asked Rob recently what our plans for Christmas were this year. Her mother’s nephew and wife want to host the holiday at their home up in the Canadian Rockies. Last year, we moved Christmas Eve to the home of nephew’s auntie. A last-minute venue change to accommodate the older girls wanting to hang out with cousins on their mother’s side. It was a bit disruptive for Dee but she is used to rolling with it anymore. Christmas in a mountain hotel (shudder) would be a bit more than a “roll with it” thing, and add the unpredictable nature of nephew’s alcoholic mother* to the scenario, and a quiet Christmas in front of our own fireplace is infinitely preferable.

Rob just joked that maybe he, Dee and I would go to Arizona to spend Christmas with his mom and her husband then. Dee would like that, but she would be terribly lonely for her sisters either way. But their moving on to traditions of their own is inevitable and her being so much younger means she will have to put her ability to roll to more active use more frequently as time goes on.

This will be year five that I haven’t seen my family at Christmas. Not that it’s here or there. You grow up and away and begin traditions of your own as you date, mate and breed. It’s not the Disney theory of the “circle of life” but more accurate in terms of what life really is. My nearness to my family in the past coupled Will’s dislike of his own family lead us to spend the holidays with them more than anything. Had his mother’s family not been a drama infested Bedlam and his dad’s not an aloof bunch, it might have been different.

It’s proximity (which is totally relative) that dictates our current defaulting to Rob’s in-laws and his family recently. If we’d relocated to Texas or overseas as we’d thought once upon a time, everything would be different. But it’s not as if this happens all the time or that I am even aware of it often because most of the time, it’s just Rob, I and Dee. The older girls have their own lives and we have our routines as well.

Thanksgiving is at our house this weekend. A huge gathering with hopefully better weather than the wet gloom that plagues us right now. The new kitchen is operational minus the dishwasher thought that should be up and running by week’s end. The dining room will be rough, the living room isn’t painted and we’re still padding about on sub-floor, but the decor is the least of a feast.

And I am not complaining. Just observing. Awareness is just that and nothing more.

 

*They are a hard-drinking lot when they gather. I stayed on the outermost bleeding edges at the few family things I’ve attended – and even factoring out that these were funeral oriented where people tend to drink a lot more (although getting hammered after a funeral is not a family tradition that I grew up with, I know that it exists) – I have distanced myself from some branches of my own family because of the tendency to equate copious amounts of libation with “fun”. Growing up with an alcoholic just makes me want to avoid anything that reminds me of it and shield Dee from the idea that drinking too much is ever a good idea for any reason. The main reason though is that people tend to dig deep into their past hurts/issues when the tipping point comes and though nothing has ever been directed toward me – I have heard things I wasn’t meant to hear. That wouldn’t be a Happy Christmas for me.

 


Pike's Peak in Colorado, USA.

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While on holiday, we off-roaded, following the forestry roads high up the peaks into logging country. Tourist types typically keep to the highways and attractions requiring little physical effort. You run into, across or past them on the well-worn trails of 3 km or less and at the venues close to the main roads. You will not find them up a mountain. Especially this time of year with the Canadian summer only officially beginning.

Our first off-road experience took us to Fenwick Falls, a sweet little waterfall up past Canal Flats. Gravel roads and not another person for over four hours as Rob rambled us up and up the mountain in search of Fenwick Lake, a mountain lake that feeds the creek and falls of the same name.

At times, riding shot-gun, I could literally look out my window at the thin air followed by a sheer drop to the river valley below. I have learned though not to do this too much because it’s quite terrifying.

The first time I ever rode  up a mountain, seemingly on the clouds, was back in 1999 on my honeymoon in Colorado. Will decided we should follow the rest of the lemmings to the top of Pike’s Peak. There is a monorail, but he had an issue with heights and refused. He had to be in control to contain his pesky (and in his opinion not at all manly) vertical aversion.

So up the mountain we went and nearing the top, the road is bald, narrow and framed with air. The first time I glanced out the window, I was keenly aware that inches separated our truck from taking flight. And I burst into tears.

I cried the last miles and Will, who couldn’t turn back and couldn’t take his hand off the wheel to take mine because the traffic was too heavy, tried to console me with reassurances about his superior driving skills. Not once did he chide me or try to talk me out of being afraid. He just allowed me to be a girl about the whole thing and when we got to the top, he walked us around until I felt brave enough to ride back down.

Riding down is also hugging the mountain, which isn’t nearly as bad.

I tell the story only because Edie and Silver were also on holiday in the Columbia River Valley this past week and the campground they stayed in could only be accessed through mountain roads. Edie, at shotgun, discovered what I did long ago – shotgun riding up a mountain really sucks.

“She looks down and bursts into tears every time,” Silver confided to Rob when we stopped for a picnic during another off-road adventure later in the week.

When Rob told me, I smiled. I couldn’t help it. The women of men who drive trucks up mountains eventually cultivate some measure of zen though I can’t personally say I enjoy heights or living a bit dangerously, as Rob thinks everyone should.

It’s funny because I can ride up a mountain now and only just phantom brake, but I hate climbing or standing close to edges. Twelve years ago I couldn’t ride but stood on the edge overlooking steep canyons while Will watched nervously from a distance. Change is reversal? Or just change?

We hiked the Hoodoos and due to the erosion, some of the trail is narrow and slippery with sand. I was all for going around but Rob coaxed Dee and I out. I was vocal about my fear. Some of it is actually bad knees. Climbing – down especially – hurts and I am keenly aware that it wouldn’t take much to strain or pop something. But worry about Dee is also a factor.

When we discussed Edie’s tear bursts, I reminded him that just because I don’t cry doesn’t mean I am not frightened. I simply tell him when I am scared and/or uncomfortable. Voicing terror works wonders. It’s an age thing and it’s also grounded in the fact that I don’t feel a need to “man up” for Rob. He is well aware of my weenie side and apparently is fine with it.

Interestingly Edie also has the same trepidation about driving trucks that I had back in the long ago days. Will had a Silverado and I avoided driving it like she declines to drive Silver’s truck.

I didn’t counsel her about the shot-gun position. I could tell she felt a bit foolish. Indeed, it is not something I expected because she is so like my sister DNOS, fearless and strong. But she will be fine. Eventually, she will concentrate on the horizon or on Silver or – perhaps one day – wee people in the backseat and the sheer drop to her side won’t hold much power because it won’t have her undivided attention. Change. Happens to all of us.