Christmas in Canada
By Megan Lee Hewell
I live in Canada, the Great White North. Specifically, I live in Vancouver, which is unlike the rest of the Great White North in one very specific way: we do not regularly get snow. Our Christmases are always green (or grey, as we seem to have cornered the market on rainfall), and though we do tire of the rain, we are content for the snow to stay up on the mountains so we can choose when to indulge. There are jokes that Vancouverites see two flakes of snow and the city shuts down, and there’s not much blue sky between the joke and the reality. One centimeter will close the highways. Two centimetres of snow shuts down the schools. Three centimetres triggers the runs on the grocery story for bottled water, milk, and bread.
Every few years though, the white stuff will fall, and in between the closing highways and shuttered schools and panic-buying of supplies, there is a sense of ethereal peace. It is beautiful because it is fleeting. And it was during one such snow storm, in the moments of peace, that I fell in love.
We were young, as the cliché goes, and we were poor broke students who couldn’t afford formal dates. Our courtship was made up a series of long walks after one or the other of us got out of classes or off late shifts at work. We would drive to the Tim Hortons (another Canadian staple) and buy a large tea or hot chocolate to share between us, and then we would park his car and walk for hours after dark talking and laughing and shivering in the cold and huddling under the umbrella that was always necessary.
That night was a few weeks before Christmas. The snow had started to fall late in the afternoon. After several hours, my boss closed the store early and turned everyone loose to brave the storm so we would all get home safely — there were almost 3 centimetres accumulated, after all, and who knew how much worse it may get?
His class had been cancelled, and he was waiting around the corner from the store for me, parked in his car with the heater running and windshield wipers frantically brushing away the flakes. We went to Tim Hortons for our tea and decided we would leave the warmth of the car and brave the storm for a walk. Mitten in mitten, passing the tea between us, we talked and laughed and shivered and threw snowballs and kicked at the light flakes falling on our boots.
The houses of the neighborhood were decorated with Christmas lights twinkling in the dark evening. It was the perfect picture of a winter evening, and it was beautiful because we knew the falling snow would very quickly turn to rain, and the beauty that had accumulated all around us would dissolve into grey, muddy slush.
But for the quiet night in the glow of the Christmas lights that lined the houses we walked past, everything was peaceful and perfect. I smiled at him, and squealed when he scooped to pick up a handful a snow, and dodged his aim, and ran, laughing. When his next snowball hit me square in the face and knocked my toque off my head, I knew I was in love.
That was eight Christmases ago. We don’t have snow this year and likely won’t, and the world is a much different place than it was eight years ago. But the laughter and the peace and the fun and the beauty still exist the life we’ve built together.
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