Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Different Take on a Holiday Gathering

As a child, it was a day I looked forward to with great anticipation. Each day growing more eager with anticipation. Some years I would get the thing I most wanted and inevitably, some years I would not. However, it was always a day I looked forward to, enjoyed and certainly relished opening gifts no matter what they held. As I got older, the gift giving became as much fun as the receiving; one of the greater joys is watching someone you care about getting enjoyment out of something you have put your heart into.

Even when my parents separated, Christmas tradition took on a new meaning and a new look. On the eve, my dad would take my sister and I skating at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto and we would do our presents with him that night after dinner. We would return to our mom's house and sleep there (some of those years I still lived there) and wake up and do Christmas morning with her. In fact, the new tradition was not only enjoyable, but I think we probably made out a little better present-wise (a thing that is a by-product of some parental separations), if I'm being honest.

My sense of family Christmas-time took a massive blow the year my mother died. The effort of Christmas began feeling more stressful than exciting. Since that time, the skating tradition with my dad has held up and my wife and her family have done a wonderful job of setting up and taking care of dinner on Christmas day. It's a nice solid foundation to have her family all here in London, making for a reliable yearly tradition that I am very thankful to have. With my dad in Toronto and sister in Ottawa (her job has her traveling cross-country yearly leading up to the 23rd of December), it is a sort of patchwork deal as to when we can all get together around Christmas.

Last year, everything worked out perfectly that my sister finished here and her husband (and their dog) came out to join us. That's not always the way, as scheduling and weather is not always on our side. This year, she was in town this past Sunday and being the only holiday time with her, I tried to make the most of the opportunity. My wife's parents agreed to take our daughter so we could enjoy the matinee showing of the show she produces and they would see the evening one. My wife was wonderful and took our daughter so I could stick around for the second showing and join the whole group for a drink afterward. Our son stayed for the first half to get a look at the inner workings of the show and offered to help sell merch during the breaks. I drove him home and returned to the show. I got a feeling it would end up being a subdued sort of evening. They had flown cross-country the previous day and had endured a two-show day and had a week to go.

We left the venue at about 11 and a few people on the bus decided to head to a pub across from their hotel to meet a couple of the singers from the show who were already there. We drank a few beers as the show members 'talked shop' and about upcoming shows. Around midnight, the bar set up karaoke and what I originally thought would be an early night took a wonderful turn. As usual karaoke goes, the group included a range of talent from mediocre to impressive. The trio of wonderful female singers from the show (dubbed the Vinylettes on the tour, but go by The Measure at other showings) got up and did a harmonized version of 'Don't Stop Believing' by Journey that kicked the night up to a different level. All four of the show's singers got up at various times and did wonderful versions of songs and bar patrons had some lively takes as well. I convinced the DJ to let us leap-frog the line and do the last song, so long as I could get the girls to come up. We chose 'Midnight Train to Georgia' as the show-stopper, with the professional singers taking the lead and the rest of us as 'The Pips'.

All in all it turned out to be an incredible night and served to remind me that holiday gatherings can be unexpected, spontaneous and special in an entirely different way than the kind you are used to. I am very thankful for this night and hope that in it in its own way can become a new tradition.

The Measure aka The Vinylettes

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