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In my teen years, things started to get out of hand. The brothers fought, often to the point where the police had to be called. My mother fretted because dad would insist on cooking the Christmas goose. He would purchase a huge bottle of Sommet Blanc and start preparing the feast. As he cooked he chanted, "One glass for me, one glass for the goose."
Then he'd start in on the "drinking and dialing," calling all the family friends while mom tried to keep dinner from drying out.
By midnight, dad was finally ready to sit down. But then, with the rest of the family hungry and pissed off, he would insist on taking pictures, completely oblivious to our state of mind. Later, when the shots were developed he'd look at our forced smiles, eyes glistening with anger and say, "What's wrong with everybody?"
When I was old enough I moved to Whistler, I think mainly to have an excuse NOT to spend Christmas at home. My sister moved away as well to Toronto. "To go to school," she said.
Oddly enough, Whistler is where I met my sane, second family. Things were definitely more fun when you could handpick who to spend the holidays with.
And there's another thing. Working Christmas in Whistler, you're usually just too busy to notice. When someone says "Happy Holiday!" it is for a laugh! What are holidays when we have double shifts, lineups and parking issues? If you get half of Christmas Day off you feel lucky.
For over a decade, that's what I got used to. I just kept my head down and got through it. Then I dated a guy who was a Christmas person. "What are you doing for Christmas?" he said.
"What do you think?" I'd answer, "Working, of course."
"Aren't you going to see your family?"
"You're a funny guy, aren't ya?"
He loved the fact that we went out and chopped our own trees down. He went off with a friend one day to get our tree.
"Make sure you go under the hydro lines!" I called after them as they set off.
He came back a few hours later, proudly showing me the tree he bagged.
"Did you go under the hydro lines?" I said.
"Well, you could see the hydro lines."
"But you weren't exactly under them."
"No, but there was this handy parking lot and a trail. It was really pretty in there"
I stopped asking questions because I didn't want to know the answer. But I'm pretty sure they chopped their trees down in the Interpretive Forest.