Monday, January 7, 2008

Christmas With The Cormiers

Hey Folks,

There are going to be a few blogposts all at once here, as it is the holiday season and I’ve begun my Vegetarian adventure back home. But first, I must recount my adventures in Halifax and surrounding area on my Christmas Eve with the Cormiers.

For those of you unfamiliar with my family, I’ll let you know that I have a cousin Devon who lives in Halifax. She has recently gotten engaged to her longtime boyfriend, who’s family I spent Christmas Eve with. These would be the Cormiers, and they are a very wonderful, loving and caring family. They took me in on Christmas Eve and treated me like family. Which was better than my other options of either staying overnight in the airport or alone in my apartment in Antigonish. So overall it went over quite well.

First some prelude though – we seem to be continuing back in time. Over a week ago I got a hold of Craig (my cousins fiancé) and told him I’d be coming to Halifax either Saturday or Sunday, possibly with my friend Judy. We conversed over a few days on facebook, and plans were settled. I then figured he’d tell my cousin I was coming. This however was not the case. As I arrived in Halifax and called my cousin she had no idea I was coming in, and caught her completely off guard!

Well needless to say we heckled Craig for a good long while for not saying anything and I’ve learned the lesson to call much earlier. But oh well, it happens. Anyway, forward in time, I am now in Halifax.

That night we ordered some pizza and played some cards. A game called Whisk and some Euchre. Both based on similar rules – basically just trump games. Craig and I were partners and basically got hosed the entire time. Tough break for us, but what can you do? We then proceeded to play with strong magnets. We also ordered pizza, and my vegetarianism once again became the butt of much ridicule with my ‘freaky pizza.’ Ah well, I persevered and it tasted great to me. It was Pizza Hut and I hadn’t had Pizza Hut in a very long time.

The next day was Christmas Eve and we all went out to the Craig’s parents for dinner. We met with some of their friends and I finally got to meet Craig’s brothers whom I’ve heard about for a couple years now. It was an exciting occasion as on Friday night Craig had proposed to Devon. It’s a beautiful ring and they’re a really sweet couple. It was a wonderful dinner, and they were all very gracious of my vegetarianism, understanding my not taking part in the turkey.

After dinner, we played some cards. I bet some of Devon’s money and lost it all. Ah well, it happens. I’ll pay her back eventually. We had some drinks and some laughs and then it was time for church. (Warning: I mean nothing in the following paragraphs to offend anyone, it is merely my knowledge and experience, related back to you for your pleasure and amusement at my lack of knowledge regarding Catholicism and its rituals)

Being a baptized Anglican, I have always been under the assumption that Catholics and Anglican’s were very close in their worship. Indeed many people will tell you this and when King Henry made the Church of England it was basically Catholicism without so many Saint’s, a translated Bible, no Pope and you could get divorces. I’m sure it’s more complex than that, but it gives the gist of the situation.

Anyway, I get into the church, and there’s only one book with hymns. The reason why: Catholics have this stuff memorized! A little run-through of the rare occasions that I go to church. We have prayer books. Big things with the stuff we need to say bolded so it is easier for us to find and recite. Also, if anything isn’t in the book, its in the pamphlet we receive before the service which is also bolded with the things we say. Failing the bolding, there are italics. How do we know which page to turn to? Large signs saying the pages we need in chronological order. King Henry wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing and could follow along.

And so, while sitting in church with my cousin who is also a Heathen, we kindof gave sidelong glances and I realized, this is how Catholics know you’re not one of them. It was an educational experience, that’s for sure. Other than the obvious lack of preparation on my part, the service was quite nice, filled with the Christmas Story and Spirit and the community atmosphere was very strong. A perfect way to spend Christmas Eve.

Afterward, we went to a Christmas Eve Party at the house of one of the Cormier’s family friends. They had many finger foods and desserts and drinks going around. It was quite the event. I talked to several people, hob-knobbing and the like. It’s always fun being the random person at a party – you can jump in anywhere and learn a lot about the people around you. It’s best when they have funny and embarrassing stories about the people you know.

It is at this party however that I ran into the ‘I’m Vegetarian so long as I don’t insult anybody’ dilemma. I had to let my resolve slide for one night for a bowl of Seafood Chowder. The Lady of the House was very proud of it and dishing out bowls, and as there was no pre-warning of a Vegetarian afoot, I took the bowl graciously and ate. And it was quite tasty. I let the resolve slip a total of 3 more times over the holidays each with varying severities and reasons which I will explain later.

And so we partied and had fun and many conversations later it was time to go home. We had a designated driver and were on our way back to the Cormier’s house where I would get two hours of sleep before having to catch my flight. On the way home, however we ran into a Christmas Miracle. A man, having been driving and unaware of the black ice, lost control around a corner and slid up the slope of the hill to the right side of the road, flipping onto his roof and skidding a ways. We didn’t even see the black vehicle until we were passed it, but being first one the scene we stopped and called 911 and checked to see if the person inside was alright.

It turns out he was perfectly fine, but in quite an amount of shock, which was miraculous. His luck continues for he skidded to the right. Had he skidded to the left, he would have gone over the barrier and into the lake, from which he would have most likely died, thus my labeling this a Christmas Miracle. I was dumbstruck by it all, amazed at the mechanical wreckage (having never seen an accident up close and personal before) while the man inside was able to get himself out of the vehicle before we even got there.

This is also a praise for local volunteer emergency workers. Because after only five-ten minutes of our calling 911 early on Christmas Morning (around 1:30 AM) volunteer fire fighter’s were on the scene. There are many flaws in many of our systems, but this one worked with a speed and dedication that would make anyone proud of their community and adding to the ideals of Christmas of brotherhood and good will towards men.

Anyway – eventually we make it home to the Cormier’s house and I finally get to get my 2 hours sleep on the couch. Let me remind you that I was a last-minute surprise guest at the Cormier’s house, but was welcomed with open arms as if I were family. When I woke up that morning there was a card and a tube of Pringles as a makeshift gift. Something so simple and yet so touching. It is gestures like that that make one believe in all the good things. It makes one feel included and special. As soon as I get back and get all the info they’re getting a nice thank you card.

Joanne (Craig’s mom) drove me to the airport which is where my adventure with the Cormier’s ends. A thanked her graciously again for letting me spend Christmas with them, as opposed to alone in my House in Antigonish or in the Airport amongst strangers and then we off home to see friends and family in what would be one of the most hectic Christmas’s I’ve ever orchestrated.

End Part 1: Please Turn Record Over for B-Side

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