Having worked in retail for over 15 years I'm still not used to having a Christmas vacation. In most other retail environments, even when I was working at the head office, Christmas was the busiest time of year.
At a university bookstore, however, the first three weeks of September and are the craziest time of year -- it is, of course, also busy the first few weeks of January (second term starting) and in the few weeks leading up to that in December (with a combination of getting textbooks ready for January as well as dealing with higher volumes of pre-Christmas traffic).
But it's still nothing like a regular retail Christmas and the madness of Boxing Day, etc. Nosiree, McMaster is closed until January 2nd and I'm officially on Christmas vacation.
This year, we kicked off the vacation with a father and son whirlwind road trip. Alexander and I rented a van (a 2008 Chevy Uplander mini van) and headed north on Saturday on the 6 hour hike up north of Sudbury to pick up Baba (my Grandmother) and Baba-Jean (my Mom, Alexander's Grandmother) and bring them back to our house for Christmas on Sunday. 6 hours in the car on Saturday, followed by 6 and a half hours in the car on Sunday (more passengers often calls for one or two more "pee break" stops)
It was the first time that Alexander and I had gone on such an extended roadtrip with just the two of us, and we were prepared for fun: the van was loaded with lots of snacks, a DVD player, tons of Baby Einstein, Winnie The Pooh, Max and Ruby and Toopee and Binoo movies, and pretty much every single Rush CD that I own. It was a long drive, and we only stopped once at the half-way (3 hour) mark to have a fun McDonald's lunch in Parry Sound.
I alternated between listening to the radio (I quite like "Moose FM" which you can get within an hour on each side of Parry sound - and I'm still a huge fan of Q92 in Sudbury - this small time radio station has most larger city radio stations beat by a mile with an actual honest to goodness changing/rotating play list. Something that is rare nowadays on popular radio stations) and listening to Rush CD's. When Alexander needed a distracting break, I cranked the Rush and we did air guitar and air drums together, both giggling madly. Of course, the lyrics from the Rush album Permanent Waves never felt more appropriate. "Off on your way, hit the open road, there is magic at your fingers." "The Spirit of Radio" indeed.
Alexander did exceptionally well considering the extended duration in the car within a two day period and the fact that his mother wasn't with us. (I don't think the two of us have ever gone away overnight anywhere before without Francine - but now that I know he's okay with it, I'm thinking it's time we check out camping this summer - just the boys). Francine stayed home to whip the house into shape for our Christmas company, with guests coming over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, there was a lot of prep work to do, a tons of organizing to be taken care of. (And all the best work gets done when the boys stay completely out of her way)
One of the highlights on the whirlwind overnight trip was visiting the Parker's house in Levack. It's at the end of Valley Road and for years has been an annual Christmas highlight, with a continually growing fantastic display of festive lights.
The house is at the very end of a street, beyond which is the black darkness of wilderness. Levack, one of the communities in the town of Onaping Falls (Er, I should say, ex-town, since in 2001 it got absorbed into the Regional Municipality of Sudbury) is a small town, one in which you can actually see the stars at night (because there are no bright city lights to diffuse the clear view of the night sky). So it's quite interesting to see the warm and cheery glow set against the pitch darkness behind.
Alexander, being a connoisseur of Christmas lights and decorations, gives the Parker house in Levack a whopping 12 out of 10 points for creativity, excitement and the sheer joy looking at those beautiful lights and decorations bring. Not only is the house, the sides and top of the house decorated, but the decorations sprawl up the hill to the back of one side of the house and extend on up the side yard to the giant shed where all the decorations are stored during the non-Christmas months. It is a stunning view, and tends to grow by one or two new decorations each year.
The return road trip also went off without a hitch. And even the morning's steady stream of pouring rain (a rainshower on Dec 23rd? How un-Christmas-like can you get?) did not deter my sense of Christmas cheer.
It's still early morning, Francine is getting ready to head off to work and everyone else is still sleeping while I sip a cup of coffee and get ready for the day.
Merry Christmas. Regardless of how you celebrate (or don't celebrate) the holiday season, may you find much peace, joy and love.