Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

I wake up in the dark, with the cat licking my hand and purring in the way he does. His purr sounds like he had a particularly bad case of pneumonia when he was a kitten; it's crackly and uneven and wheezy. If he were one of the kids I'd be inclined to say "get a drink of water for heaven's sakes.." or worry about incipient bronchitis, but since he's a slightly neurotic cat I thump his tummy instead, hoping to get him to shift a little and lower the decibels.

He doesn't. Instead he crawls up the bed until he's lying right in my face, which means his butt is right in Richard's face. He purrs louder, rumbling like a poorly maintained dump truck. Richard is sleeping so he doesn't know that Toffee's bottom is in his face, but the idea of it, combined with his usual reaction when Toffee does this ("Toffee, I do not find the sight of your anal glands very attractive"), causes me to start giggling. Toffee is pleased and starts licking my shoulder vigorously. Together we manage to wake Richard up. Richard is not pleased. He does not find Toffee's early morning wheeze amusing.

It is Christmas Eve. And this is the start of my day.

I don't know what Christmas is like where you live, but where I live Christmas is a big deal: stores close early on Christmas Eve, with signs posted that say things like "Our staff is having a Christmas party this afternoon so we're closing early! We reopen December 27th. Have a Merry Christmas!" Yes, you read that right - things actually shut down for more than a day. When I first moved back here from six years in California I remember feeling quite indignant ("What? I have to think ahead about how much milk I have in the fridge? How LAME is that!"), but the feeling gradually wore off. Canada is quietly and fiercely proud of its parochialism, and six years in the heady wilds of pre-recession California made me forget briefly that I was, for better or for worse, not an American.

We have spent much of the week on our usual Christmas pursuits: making things that smell good, baking things that taste good, crafting things that look good, and getting together, for better or for worse, with relatives and friends. Some of these get togethers are pleasant and we all look forward to them; some we simply endure, like we do the flu, hoping they will end swiftly and without too much trauma. This last instance is why we now have a Post-it note stuck to the answering machine, with various telephone numbers written on it; this is my version of the Do Not Answer list.

"It's _____!" shrieks FDPG (who lives to patrol the telephone) "Do I answer it?"

"NO!!!!" I shriek back, fear and horror gripping my heart like cold death.

Sigh. Christmas.

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