I remember magic.
When I first learned to love soft light, the variations on colour and glow, how a room changed dynamically into a space, alien, but more like home at the same time.
I remember how music sounded different, there seemed to be a softness to it.
I remember how the air felt colder and warmer at the same time. The wind didn’t bite, it belonged.
I remember the weight of the room changing with every present under the tree. A buffet filled with dishes tucked away the better part of the year pulled out, gleaming alabaster white under candlelight, their gold edges seeming to flicker in response.
I remember the moment permission was granted, the screams and giggles accompanying the excursion into the closet under the stairs where the decorations were kept, patiently waiting for their time to shine.
I remember the christmas of the complicit lie, the handed down star destroyed by the new dog that dad said he never wanted, though he’d pet her when no one was watching. How we buried it out of sight and never spoke of it again.
I remember the hours spent in the kitchen, baking shortbread and stollen, brandy balls and fudge, the double boiler filled with chocolate for the molds of leaves and santas, my disgruntled face when mum insisted that white chocolate was just as necessary. It totally wasn’t.
I remember how it felt to transport christmas into a car, presents piled high among suitcases and baking, alarm set and a car warmed in the pre-dawn, sleepy girls in the back, tucked in with pillows and promises of a ferry ride and a warm house across the water.
I remember how it felt to carry ourselves up stairs faded red cracked concrete, flanked by rose bushes that patiently waited out winter to bloom yellow as tribute to the summer sun.
I remember the door opening and the smell of my grandmother, wreathed in shalimar perfume and the excitement of seeing us arrive safe and sound. I remember her hands, old lady soft and welcome home warm on my cold cheeks.
I remember a large house, filled with familiarity, long hallway from front foyer filled with books, rarely lit, leading to a kitchen that was always bright. I never went that way, instead turning left to the living room which was the centre of activity, filled with family, some well known, some only glimpsed once a year. A sparkling tree in a corner that seemed empty without it the rest of the year. Nestled next to a piano so old it still had ivory keys, though some had chipped off, yellowed wood beneath scraping at fingers that played. Front window showpiece of lights and garlands, over stuffed sofas among gregarious uncles, eyes already warm with pre-dinner drinks, their laughter infused with eggnog, heavy on the nog.
I remember suitcases and coats shuffled into spare rooms, my sister and I into a room painted purple, with it’s view of Grouse Mountain and the lights at the top that were obviously a runway for easy access to neighbourhood chimneys.
I remember the nativity on the mantle, the marvel of tiny bulbs’ smoky soft glow among the angel hair. It seemed so small and delicate beneath my grandfather’s sword, strapped to the wall and watching over all of us, though he was long gone. I remember the rare moments grandma would take it down and let us see it. Let us ooh and ahh over this tool of violence that had never known any. More pomp than circumstance.
I remember the plates of short bread and rum balls we’d left out as a just in case, though I had my suspicions about who was eating them the year dad suggested that santa probably just wanted a beer.
I remember the faint crackle of the fire from the other side of the house, the sound of ice cubes tintinnabulating against tumblers filled with amber to accompany reminiscences of the year gone by.
I remember the smell of candles, subtle wax scents tapered and tall, proud of their place in the tableau.
I remember the feeling of my blood boiling with excitement, barely contained and yet calmed when my aunt came in to read us a christmas eve story. Twas the night when we were young, graduating to the gift of the magi as we got older. Her voice as soft as the light of the candle she read by.
I remember it all.