The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

November 27, 2007

GAK! And it's only November



Bing Crosby is back with his Christmas crooning at WalMart..."It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

They plant that thought in our minds, which in super-conglomerate-speak is a subliminal code song to consumers to "don't think, just spend, spend, spend."

And they plant it earlier every year and then fertilize and water beyond belief.

It's like a switch they turn on with the non-stop ads, music and everything else, triggering some device they've surgically inserted in our heads that gets us to comply.

The plastic green and red festive decor crawls along like man-eating vines at the liquor store, in the 7-Eleven, in every mall, stretching its tentacles out to grab us and gobble us up in a buying orgy of outlandish proportions.

And we follow, like the lemmings we are, jumping off a cliff into a sea of debt below, victims of our own need and desire to give so our loved ones will feel good and falling into the trap of consumerism that haunts us everywhere we go.

But everybody knows that. This post, actually, is supposed to be about Christmas and the extended family and my own early encounter with it this year.

And how one of my three sisters, who aptly calls herself "The Big Organizer," made my tiny brain explode on its own long before I've even thought about what I'm going to buy anyone for Christmas.

While I was out of town recently, this sister, who I love dearly, sent out an email to me, our two other sisters and my one brother who lives close enough to us to be part of our annual family Christmas get-together.

In it, she used complicated mathematics principles and theories to detail, in terms I could not understand but which Einstein or others might; four scenarios for buying our collective nine offspring Christmas gifts.

The first email was titled "Christmas Shenanigans." It was about 400 words long.

I gave up about one-third of the way into it when she broke down the spending ratios in a Pythagorean formula that looked something like this:

9 x $40.00 + $8.00 for the one couple that has three as opposed to two kids, divided by the circumference of Pluto minus the 12 beers and 82 bags of chips without any peanut additives WW is assigned to bring=WW's amount owing.

The second email was entitled "More Shenanigans." It further confused me with more mind-numbing possibilities but fortunately, did not attempt to address peace in the Middle East or why I am still single.

The third had a subject line titled "Oops, bossy L has contradicted herself." I didn't even open it.

And yet a fourth was titled, "Extra Xmas Info."

Nowhere have any of these emails stated where this Boxing Day Bedlam is going to occur -- I'm assuming it's at her place -- but that's besides the point.

I'll just buy each of my two kids a $40 gift, wrap them as best I can, label them "from your aunts and uncles," write my sister a cheque in the amount of either $18 or $1,800, whatever she wants, bring the case of beer and truckload of peanut-free chips and show up.

I love being part of a big family. When you get all of us together for any sort of celebration, it's nothing but fun and kidding around and bedlam and bad jokes and the kind of teasing we did as kids.

When it's at Christmas, there's an air of added excitement.

There's the wonder and unbridled happiness of the kids (age range about 12-23) anticipating the loot they're going to get, the almost ho-hum hilarity involving all us siblings, and the presence of our mom and dad to tie it all together.

There's the chatting, the mingling of generations, the joking, the dinner to which we all contribute (some, like me, a lot less than others), the dessert and then, finally, the mass opening of presents, from youngest to oldest.

For our family, it's a very special time, despite all my rants about what Christmas has become in the larger world of consumerism and buy, buy, buy.

We might have fallen victim to its vise-like grip and allure, but that doesn't make it any less compelling a time to give and to be together, and that is the most important thing of all.

WW's Big Adventure (Epilogue)


Yes, the team I grew up cheering for and which I now cover for the biggest newspaper in my province lost our national football championship on Sunday to our rivals from the West.
Oh well. There's always next year, they gave it 110 per cent, the other team just "made more plays than we did," as the incredibly stupid cliches go.
And the football season, finally, is over here in the Great White North.
We are now officially the city with the longest championship drought, now dating back 17 years since we haven't won it in 1990 in Vancouver (I was there for that game too).
Sob, sob. But fans of the other team really deserved to win this. They hadn't won since 1989 in Toronto, another game I covered.
I returned from Toronto late last night, the last straggler from my newspaper to do so, only to find about 122 dishes and pots and pans piled up in the kitchen sink, on the counter, on the couch, courtesy of my son who turned 16 today.
Whilst I contemplate the different ways in which I will wring his neck (figuratively, not literally, although it's tempting...), I thought I'd wrap up the week that least the parts I can remember.
And if I can't remember a lot, it's not because I was inebriated, not even once, except maybe late Sunday night, after the game and my work was all done.
They call this Canada's "Grand National Drunk," or at least they used to. And I certainly did see plenty of people well beyond failing sobriety tests.
But because we had our local university team in Toronto competing for their national championship the same week as the Grey Cup (THEY won), I had to cover two championships in the same week.
That meant 15-hour days and very little time for sight-seeing, drinking or walking about Canada's largest city.
I did get out Tuesday night for a nice supper and Saturday for a bit of carousing, some great Italian food and some blues music.
But for the most part, I was confined to my hotel and room service.
The hotel, as I explained in my previous post, is attached to the Rogers Centre, a 53,000 seat domed stadium that most of Canada still calls SkyDome.
Staying in a hotel attached to the football stadium where the game will be played has its perks, but also its peculiarities.
I was on the seventh floor and the elevator was (I counted) 241 paces from my room. It took me almost two minutes to walk to my room from the elevator.
I expended as much energy doing just that as the players did in their daily practices. Following are some pictures to give you a glimpse...
The tall building on the right is the CN Tower, until recently the world's tallest free-standing structure. The big wide domed building to its left is the Skydome, to which is attached the hotel I stayed at.

This is the hotel itself, with the CN Tower, well, towering above it.

These are my feet looking through the glass floor at the top of the CN Tower.

This is me jumping from the CN Tower in my cool red track suit that everyone loved.

Here is another angle of me jumping from the CN Tower.

Here's just another football shot of the winning team celebrating as a pictorial segue to the end of this epic journey by WW to Canada's Centre of the Universe.
I returned to a wintry Winnipeg full of cold, snow and a pile of dishes.
It sure is great to be home.