2011 is just about over and what a year it has been! On my end, it has been an exciting year for the books although as usual, we all come to this closing with some regret. Hearing the word “regrets” always brings me back to one of the wiser people who have influenced me: my Grandad (or grandfather Bickford). When he was forced to spend years restricted to the Rideaucrest Nursing Home due to a series of debilitating strokes - one of the tougher moments in my life – in a brief moment of lucidity he asked me: “Will, are you happy with your life? Enjoy it and make sure you can’t look back with regret, because you can’t change the past.” These few sentences are dear to my heart and ever since helped me through hard times. From the time he imparted his wisdom onto me, it has been much easier to decide meaningful New Year’s resolutions and keep them as goals I will accomplish.
|The Bickfords in 2011|
As some of you knew beforehand and others have learned through reading this blog, no matter where the Fab 4 (David, Madeleine, Brian and I) have been, we were always traditional and united when it came to our holidays. Christmas and New Years were times we invested in our relationships (parents, siblings, and now, it has been updated to husband-wife for the Bickford boys) which are the most important pillars of life. You can accomplish a lot with proper support in your home life. The third-culture or transculture experience helped to build a very close network. We created our own microculture yet we are also able to adapt to other cultures easily, exercising the outmost sensitivity. When Brian and I were kids or teenagers, we were always there to dress our Christmas tree, “help” Maman bake festive cookies and watch as Dad carved our trademark turkeys surrounded by stuffing, cranberries, baked potatoes, carrots, peas. After the Christmas meal, we all retired to a well-deserved siesta and thematic movies such as A Christmas Story or National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Even times where I have not been able to be with my parents or my brother (and now my sister, Melissa, better known as his wife and my favourite little princess, Emma) I have proudly continued with the traditions. My sweet wife Ana has taken to some of these rituals as her own and we have added her cultural spices to the traditional blend, hoping to build new traditions to pass on to future generations of Colombo-Canadians. Sometimes it is not easy to find all the ingredients in some countries where I have been, but when you apply yourself and have some creativity, everything is possible.
Among our special life-long traditions - something I think is worth passing on to people open to adopting new customs - are the stocking stuffers. We tend to go shopping for discounted items or cheap gifts before the special day, which we know will make the person laugh (a complete season 1 of Mr T’s reality show, a chocolate poo-pooing reindeer, doggy bags, a caroling Scooby Doo) or little knick-knacks that the receiver loves (chocolates, candy canes, cookies). These small yet thoughtful gifts always play a key role in setting a festive mood and showing that you do not need to break the bank to make others happy. After all, there is that important saying, “It is the thought that counts.” The most important gift for me this season is to be with those who I hold dearest to my heart. It’s enough of a present. If I cannot physically be with them, I am just happy they are enjoying their time wherever they are and making the most of the season. As priorities take on new faces, it is often hard to have everyone close by, especially with the tough winters we have in Canada causing major setbacks in air, road and rail traffic. In Ontario, we were clever enough to build a long stretch of highway along the Montreal-Kingston-Toronto-Niagara corridor, infamous for lake effect white outs and drifting snow. I cannot recall a smooth drive on that highway due to holiday blizzards. The locals call this miracle of modern engineering the 401, which I have had the pleasure of mentioning over a few entries. It is an icon of Ontario, yours to discover if the weather permits.
Christmas has never been a time in our family for putting a price tag on gifts and thinking: “Well Jack gave me something worth $20 so I will give him something equal in value.” While in Latin America, we generally used to give gifts, food or anything within our means as a special thank you to the people who made our lives that much easier. In some of those countries, they talk about El Nino Dios (in Ricky Bobby’s Talladega Nights grace, “Baby Jesus”) showing up on December 25th, which is actually an accurate depiction of the holiday. Jolly Saint Nick is an international celebrity representing the commercialization of Christmas, but the actual embodiment of his persona serves as a positive message: “the season of giving.” He gives selflessly. Great example to follow! There are those material gifts we exchange with others, but in fact, the best gift we can give to the world is kindness and caring without expecting anything in return. It is a time to consider all the wonderful things that bless our lives but we should always think of what little thing I could give next year in order to make a world a better place. Instead of rushing everywhere and driving a high-octane adrenaline-based body from one place to the next, we should budget our time and run our errands with a smile. Ever noticed when you speak on the phone with a smile versus a frown, even your voice seems happier? Who doesn’t like happy people? Holding the door for someone you know is coming behind you, (with a smile) and even if they do not say thank you, just tell them “you’re welcome”, and maybe you can convert some people back to a sense of community. We need others to survive, (no man – or woman for that matter - is an island) so let’s all be a little less transactional with each other.
|Ana and I in Mont Tremblant, Québec|
As opposed to many of the conspiracy theorists (I am sure you have all heard the famous “The Mayans warned us”), 2012 will give us another 12 months to work towards our goals and hopefully reach for the stars with our dreams. If not, there is always 2013, but we have to make the most of time. It is also a chance to think of the greater good, our families, our neighbours, our communities and our planet. Canadians had generally been recognized for their sense of community involvement and being a good neighbour, something I think we can all benefit from. You used to be able to drop a wallet full of money on the street and someone would bring it to your attention, allowing you to recover it. Otherwise, if no one was around, you could double back the next day and you could still find it on the street where you had dropped it, untouched. Not even a dollar gone. This can be achieved through pride in your community, a sense of civic duty, respecting your fellow people as brothers and sisters and being ready to help others not only by thought or prayer. Anyway, I will be back to blogging January 15th, 2012, and hope you all have a safe break and tune-in for a whole new year of stories. I hope to find some time next year to write a novel or even a third-culture book of some kind as it has always been a dream of mine, and continue spreading some positive ingredients we can all use. New Year, new goals.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!