Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


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Most people think there are only two holidays right before New Year’s Eve. They’re wrong. There are, in fact, three holidays — Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Shopping Day. But maybe it’s just our family that has three holidays.

Neither my sister nor I have the proper killer instinct to brave Boxing Day crowds. Indeed, were the truth be told, there are a thousand other things we would rather do on the day after Christmas. Personally, I spend the morning of December 26 each year raising a mug of steaming Columbian brew to James Mason of Franklin, Mass. On Dec. 26, 1865, he was awarded a patent for the coffee percolator.

Meanwhile, there are people who plan their Boxing Day all year in order to be up and out the door early, lining up in anticipation of the opening bell at the mall. They will finish all their Christmas shopping by 6 p.m. — that’s for Christmas, 2010. More power to them. In all likelihood, they will be too tired to clog the stores on the following day.

Our family doesn’t have the requisite number of household help in order to fulfill the spirit of the first Boxing Days when the servants were given the day off — after they had prepared a cold repast for the household — and were presented with Christmas presents (the so-called “Christmas boxes”) by the master and mistress.

Frankly, I haven’t seen a servant since the last Upstairs, Downstairs revival and nobody delivers anything on December 26, so the tipping for various services must be done before Christmas, not after.

The lure of 70 percent off in some stores just isn’t enough to convince me to wade into crowds exceeded in size and ferocity only by those in Toronto’s Bloor and Yonge subway interchange the year the subway lines froze (literally) or, at any time of the year, in Filene’s basement in Boston right next to the sales racks of designer fashions.

In lieu of servants, we have to make do with the willing helping hands of visiting relatives, pressed into service in exchange for food, drink and entertainment. Kelly, my sister’s youngest child, is the best cook in the family. She spent the week before Christmas at her parents’ doing all the requisite baking, including a peanut-butter based concoction that certainly must have a proper name, but is known in the family only by one name: crack. Such are its powers of addiction. I managed the entire five-day visit without succumbing to its sugary charms. I rewarded myself with a small libation of Scotch whiskey. Or two.

What do we do on Boxing Day if none of us shops? There’s the annual use-up-all-leftovers plan, cleverly disguised as an annual Boxing Day party for friends. The only entrance fee is a willingness to sing carols, with a spirited argument made by the men in the family as to who will have the privilege of singing Five Golden Rings during The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Even though I lack the proper guerilla shopper gene, all the other equipment is in its correct place and goes into full flight the day after Boxing Day — on December 27. Such is my faith in luck that I believe if I am “meant” to own something — like a brand-new black suede and grey fox fur coat from Holt Renfrew in Edmonton, sold to me by the charming Dianne, egged on by my sister, Susan, and Kelly who had come shopping with us — then it will be there, in the right size, when I chance upon it. Really, truly, the coat just pounced on me while I was innocently passing by, minding my own business. Well, it pounced after Dianne undid the locked theft-proof chain through the sleeves and once I tried it on, it glued itself to my being and demanded I purchase it as a reward. A reward for what, I’m not sure, but I’m coming up with some excuse.

Having a shopping tradition the day after the frenzied hordes have mauled their way through the shops means not having to agonize over a choice of two or more items on sale. With luck, there’s usually only one available. And having to go to three shoe stores just to buy a couple of measly pairs of pumps (one purple suede, the other black grosgrain) requires a certain amount of enthusiasm for the outing which Susan and I manage to find each year.

I know, I know, it’s a heavy responsibility, but someone has to do it. We aren’t welcome at the house, anyway, so we make ourselves scarce. Maybe “welcome” is the wrong word, but as the Shopping Day tradition evolved, so too did Men’s Movie Day. The guys head for the “man cave” — i.e. the basement — with its giant HD television and surround-sound and watch whatever gory, bloody, noisy movies they found under the tree this year. They prefer not to be annoyed by the sound of a woman’s voice yelling from upstairs to turn the volume down, so really, we’re doing them a favour by shopping. At least that’s what Susan and I have always told each other.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with my campaign to lose weight and get fit. Well, maybe just a little. If I hadn’t lost 10 pounds in the past three months, that coat would never have fit. And if I hadn’t been conscious of exercise, I would never have had the stamina for a day of shopping and walking and, in particular, trying on clothing which is an exercise in itself. If laughter counts as exercise, this Christmas season has been a particularly energetic one, including the moment when Kelly, who was waiting for her mother and me to emerge from two different fitting rooms, looked up at the dress I had tried on and said: “That makes you look like a librarian dominatrix.” While the thought was an interesting contradiction in terms, I didn’t buy the dress. Nor did I buy the one that made me look like a frosted layer cake.

But I did buy a kit containing an exercise ball, an instruction booklet and, purportedly, a DVD to show those of us who are exercise challenged how to do the routines. Alas, when I got it home, the DVD wasn’t in the box, so back to the store it goes. The “floor” exercises will now have to wait. Oh, drat.

Laden with purchases, the three of us repaired to a small boite in downtown Edmonton, had a “girlie” drink each (identified as anything that requires a martini glass rimmed in sugar), a small plate of appetizers, admired each other’s purchases, and headed home for more leftovers.

Tomorrow, Ted and I head for the mountains for a peaceful end to both the year and the first decade of a new millennium.

NEXT: A decade has passed and everyone is looking back and making lists.


Written by Catherine Ford

December 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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