We had about an hour to get to the ferry terminal. A drive not quite familiar to my brother and then it was further complicated by some roadworks over a critical overpass. The detour took us further than we would have wished but we found our way. The little one stared at us as we sat beside each other in the back seat. Chrl didn’t get much sleep as the kids were fidgety. We had ample time to make it to the ferry terminal and once on the ferry we found ourselves a spot by the kids play area. As the ferry left the shore we began our journey to the mainland unsure of what exactly lay ahead.
The little one kept us busy as he used his energy to play with whatever was at hand. He ran in circles and sometimes engaged with each of us drawing out of us whatever he needed. He even engaged with a friendly stranger that was sitting behind me when the little one was on my lap getting attention from me. The ferry swayed a bit from the wind that was rushing through the straight. This wind cleared some of the cloud and it cleared some of the cobwebs as I stood outside on the deck. We had a lot of work ahead of us in the next few days. This is the day before Christmas Eve. If we were to have a good Christmas we were going to have to successfully overcome this obstacle that stood before us.
It has been a bit of a crazy year in our family. Crazy in the sense that all of us have moved or are in the process of moving. I have essentially lived on the road for the entire year, my parents have sold their house and are moving now, my sister has moved and my brother is renovating his house in preparation for moving. It is clearly some sort of transition year. In the greater world as well many things have changed especially politically. We don’t have direct influence on that but we have influence on what can happen in our immediate vicinity. My parents are tired from the year that they have had. Moving for them is downsizing from a house into a flat. They have let go of their work taking care of the boys. Looking at them they are exhausted and as they are much older now they need to have a nice easy life. They have worked hard all of their lives and finally they should be able to relax and enjoy their lives. We needed to help them move some big things into their new flat today.
We got to their place after noon and had some food before finally getting down to business. My brother and I were essentially the muscle that moved everything. My parents flat is a large one bedroom. They needed specific things to be loaded into it. The heavy bedroom set that they have had for a long time, a fridge for some extra food that they always store, a couch, the old carpets that were brought over from Poland all those years ago. These things had to be extracted from the house and then moved to the new place. We maneuvered each item carefully down the narrow staircase and onto the moving truck we rented for this task. There weren’t many items but the task took some time to finish loading.
As we were discussing how to proceed with the next move all of a sudden we heard a commotion outside. A car had just crashed into the ditch. I quickly ran outside and there was already cars that were stopped. The driver was getting out through the passenger side. He looked a bit shaken up but said that he was okay. There was snow falling lightly throughout the day. The roads were slippery and we wondered what had happened. My parents later said that this was the third car crash into that ditch in all the time they have lived here. My brother studied the accident site later after all the traffic left. The driver was probably driving too fast and didn’t anticipate the road reducing from four lanes into two. He hit one of the concrete barriers that flew ten to fifteen feet and he bounced across the road into our ditch. As we stood there right after the accident a driver yelled out,
That’s what you get for driving like an idiot!
My brother threw a loosely packed snowball that hit a different car. It was really inconsiderate for someone to say such a thing. In reality however, after studying the scene we concluded the same thing.
All these items in the van then had to be unloaded and placed into their new home. We had to quickly unload and place the things into the lobby so that dad could return the van. We had an elevator which we used to move things up to the third floor. The elevator helped ease the burden of navigating up the stairs with heavy furniture. There were challenges though. The fridge was too wide to fit through the narrow door into the room where it was going to stand. We tried to finess it in but encountered a physical limitation. We ended up removing the door and it ended up fitting perfectly into its spot. The bedroom furniture fit perfectly as well. The way that the pieces fit pleased mom greatly. The first day was done shortly thereafter. My brother and I drove back in his little van while my parents eventually followed in theirs.
Upon returning Chrl and I had a long moment together. She was a close friend with my brothers wife and continues to be. They had a chance to catch up and just hang out together but I needed and wanted to give her attention too. My sis I think felt a little lonesome. I could tell when I looked in her eyes there was a bit of something missing there. We were all tired from this day. We had another day of moving stuff the next day. This time we are going to be loading stuff for my brother to take over onto the island.
Although this house is in transition and things are all over the place this is a much more relaxed Christmas. There have been many many Christmas’ when we have been run off our feet. Back then we had a Polish deli that we ran. There was always too much work and not enough time. There was always another thing that had to be done something personal for someone that meant so much to them. There were thirty hour shifts meaning that we had to sleep in shifts. I was absent while my friends partied but what else could I have done? Having so much responsibility shortened my childhood but it made me understand something beyond that little world. How much of that partying do I remember now? How much of that time do I recall? I remember some of those long nights from the shop kind of. I remember that we were always tired. There was always so much to do.
So as much as this is all a bit crazy there are valid reasons why this Holiday has turned out this way. My parents spent the past few months fixing up the new place. They told the previous owner that they will take care of the stuff that she had in her place. The flat is in a building that has older folks living in it. The previous owner was living with a lot of pain and she decided to chose the time of her escape from this planet. My parents tried to convince her otherwise offering to be of assistance but to no avail. What she left behind is part treasure part trash and all of it has to be dealt with. There is no one to help. My sis was injured at work, my brother is on the island, my parents can only do so much. It waited until we were all together.
Earlier in the week my dad managed to get a great deal on a twenty foot truck rental. That’s the minimum length needed for my brother to move his things across. He has a car frame that he wanted for his car that has been sitting there for a long while. There is furniture and appliances that he is taking for his home. There are also a multitude of things that will be added throughout the loading process. Since it is a long holiday the rental will cost less per day and it will allow him to move everything. The quotes that he got have been exceedingly high. The other thing is that I can help him load the thing. It will save him a trip back after the holidays.
I woke early and heard the little one cause commotion at exactly six in the morning. I was already sipping coffee tapping away at the screen. Soon there was more stirring as more occupants of the house woke up. The little one was energetic as always and my brother complained about his poor rest. He kept getting woken up by little kicks in the face and nudges in the ribs. What can he do? What should we do? Time is precious today we need to get the thing loaded. First though we needed to figure out which things we are actually taking. We need to take things apart so that it will take up less space. We need to carry things down so that it is ready to be loaded. We are picking the van up in the early afternoon so that it would be returned at the same hour in a few days. It’s strategic.
My dad got a few of his buddies to come over and help. They came just after dad and brother left to pick up the van. Antoni came over first I was in the middle of doing things so I just directed him where to park. After finishing I went over to say hello. He is a good friend of my dads and they all hang out together with their wives. He was sporting a particularly nasty shiner. His right eye was heavily bruised and it looked like he had a few stitches there. I was going to ask what happened but didn’t want to just yet. Then another one of my dads friends showed up. I directed him to the place where his truck wouldn’t be in the way. As we all said our hellos my mom came out with some coffee and sweets. Janusz asked Antoni what happened. Antoni began by giving us some background.
“It was my last day at work. I’ve been working at this place for thirty-five years and it was finally my last day before retiring. I was moving this load down this ramp and I slipped and fell. The load jerked forward and hit me in the face. There was blood all over. They called the ambulance and I went to the hospital. Nothing broken just had to get some stitches” Antoni said.
“That’s a good story we told him but you have to spice it up a bit” Janusz responded.
“So I should say that I got into a fight at a pub?” Antoni asked.
“Maybe you had a fight with your wife and she hit you with something?” I suggested.
“Tonight is the big mass with all the different people there. They will be starring at me wondering what happened to me. That’s the worst part they just stare.” Antoni said.
We laughed about the injury but in reality he is lucky that he escaped with just that shiner. We were still finishing our coffee when my dad showed up. My brother followed soon thereafter and we quickly got to work on loading it up. The frame went in first since it is the biggest and heaviest thing to transport over. Then we loaded in things from the garage before moving on to the things from the house. Having those extra bodies to help out really cut down on the time that it took us to load it all in. Once we got the big things in we let the guys go. We still had odds and ends to move in there things that only my brother could evaluate. My dad kept sneaking things in there to my brothers annoyance.
“Tatuś! I don’t need that!” Was often heard from my brothers lips.
We finished for the day sometime around five just about in the time for dinner. The women were entertaining the little one while waiting for us. After the guys left we just had to secure the load before closing the door or so I thought. There is always a bunch of odds and ends to put in. This took us longer than expected. Everyone inside was getting hungry. Christmas Eve has a traditional period of fasting and a specific diet of vegetables and fish. You are not supposed to eat much this day until dinner. I was getting hungry too.
Our Christmas table was an old fold out plastic top. We scrounged for chairs as the dining room set was loaded into the van. My mom found a Christmas themed linen tablecloth that she bought in Poland before emigrating that has never been used. We were downstairs in the basement sitting room. We have a tradition that before the meal we have opłatek or break bread that is in the form of a wafer. We break off white flakes of the water as we wish each member of the family a personal set of hopes and wishes. There was laugher and tears as we each spoke to each other. Afterwards when we sit down we are not supposed to get up from the table until the meal is finished. There is always an extra plate in case someone knocks on the door and asks if they could come in and stay for the meal. ‘There was no room in the inn for a man and his woman who was with child.’ Or so the story goes. There are supposed to be twelve courses but I didn’t count how many we actually had. After the meal we open up our presents.
We were all very happy together. Amidst all that has been going on in our lives we were having a very good time. Seeing all of the laughter on everyone’s face was good because we need to have these good times to bond over. It was Chrl’s first Christmas with us and I wanted her to have a good impression of our tradition. She has met my family before but this is a bit more intimate as we are spending so much time together. She will become a part of this family one day officially and this time we had couldn’t be scripted it had to be spontaneous. Amidst all of this chaos it somehow turned out great. We went to a Polish church service in Surrey where my dad is one of the Knights of Columbus. The regalia that he and his colleagues wear add pomp and circumstance to the ceremony. Once home we stayed up for a bit longer but we were all exhausted.
In the morning the little one once again stirred the house up. My brother’s family was leaving in time to catch the noon ferry but we still had to top up the van with some more odds and ends that we didn’t have time to add yesterday. This whole exercise took a few hours so that by the time we finished a good couple of hours had past. Once we said our goodbyes it was time for me to pack. I had a bunch of things that I haven’t sent yet to Saskatoon. This includes my kettle bells that I have been hauling around the world. One of them has sentimental value and as much as I could have sold it and bought another one the sentimental value is too great to cheapen it like that. It has been an interesting challenge to get it here from England. I had totally forgotten that I lent them to my brother. I’m glad he brought them with him so that I could get them to Saskatoon on the Greyhound.
It was a lonely in the house by this time. My sis had time with Chrl as I did my thing. I needed to be ready in time for Chrl’s dad to pick us up. Once inside his truck the next phase of these holidays would begin. As we hugged and kissed my brother’s family goodbye it was the last time that I would see them until the next time we’re here. The rest of the family we will see before Chrl and I fly out to Saskatoon early on New Year’s Eve.