Christmas in Canada

For obvious reasons I could not write this post before Christmas, and with the chaos and effort of travelling to another continent and back (not to mention the start of a new term at school with all the accompanying chaos), it’s taken a few days to get back in the swing of things.

This past year we decided to give a very special Christmas gift: surprise surprise grandkids. The grandmas are always asking when they can have more time with Asha and Rohan, so last year around February Darcey suggested that we could fly back at Christmas and surprise my mother. I knew she would love it – Christmas is her thing, and she always wants to have the family together. I’ll see if I can find photos of her Santa collection later, but trust me, she goes in for all the trappings the season has to offer: wreaths, garlands, lights, bells, baking, cooking, gifts under the tree (and around the tree, because GIFTS!)… the whole kit and caboodle.

The problem (for anyone who knows my mother) was keeping her in Toronto without promising to bring the kids home. She is prone to spontaneous fits of international travel, and is not above flying to another continent for a bit of excitement or to see her family.

We had to concoct an elaborate set of excuses in order to convince her that we were going to visit friends in Australia, and as we would be relying on our friends’ hospitality, we could not possibly invite her to join us. My father was enlisted to ensure that she did not decide to book another vacation on her own – no small feat, I’m sure, since she retired in September and had nothing but free time to travel.

My sister was brought into the loop to make sure that she would be home to see us. This became especially awkward over the summer when we did not travel to St. Louis to see Claire, knowing we would be seeing her in December… but of course we could not tell my mother that.

My mother in law was also informed – we wanted her to be able to come up to see the grandkids too, and it would obviously require a little more planning on her part to drive up to Canada from her home in Maryland – and at one point had to stop communicating with my parents because she was worried she would let the cat out of the bag. At the same time she had to be in frequent communication with my father to make sure she could arrange their visit.

The close calls were numerous. At one point, my father asked if he ought to buy some steak “for when Adam and Darcey visit.” My mother did think it was odd that he’d buy meat in November for the following summer.

Finally, the day of our arrival came. 3 hours in the airport, 12 hours in the plane, dragging our carry-on luggage – that we had crammed three weeks of clothing and a small pile of Christmas presents into in order to avoid having to wait for checked baggage – through the hallways of Pearson International Airport, through customs, and out to find my father waiting in the crowd.

My sister called my dad while we were in the car from the airport. “Mom has no idea. I just talked to her, and when I asked where [my dad was], she said ‘I have no idea! He said he was going out to get a Christmas gift at Cloverdale (a nearby mall)! He had better get home soon, we have a party to get to!”

And so we arrived and rang the doorbell. My mother opened the door and looked in stunned silence from one face to the next for several seconds, before Asha yelled “Grandma!” and my mom realised that we were really there, and neither some hallucination nor mirage nor troupe of impostors.

A few minutes later she told me, sitting on the stairs in the front hall, that “there are some gifts that are so special you never forget them. Thank you.”

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