By Nikki Jamieson
The winter holidays; a time of joy, warmth and laughter. With carols in the air and gingerbread crammed in our pantries, it seems nothing can go wrong in this magical wonderland of twinkly-lights.
Then your flight gets delayed. Then somebody gets sick. Then you make the time-honoured mistake of playing Monopoly.
Hel-lo, ulcer medication.
Coming to the end of my first three months at the paper, this year will be the first Christmas I’ll be spending as a bona-fide, responsible, working adult. For the past seven years, I have been in university, and in December I would be living off KD and coffee while pouring over notes, praying to a different deity every hour that I do not fail my next exam and writing said test in a feverish haze that all students know all too well.
Once that was done, I would hop on a plane and within 24 hours, be sipping tea while my family drinks eggnog.
But in the month leading up to Christmas, I would be running around, trying to find plane-friendly gifts while completing final projects and studying.
I would be trying to find out who my sister’s favourite comic book hero of the day was, debating the pros and cons of simply giving dad a gift certificate while awaiting his Christmas and birthday lists to arrive in my inbox and trying to decide whether or not a jaunty-looking polar bear is too Christmassy for my mom’s birthday.
That’s right; in addition to Christmas gift giving, both my parents have birthdays that fall on or near the holidays. For those who have loved ones who face the possibility of receiving Santa decor for both occasions, I feel your pain.
On top of which, all gifts must be plane-proof. While at the beginning of my university career, Christmas was celebrated in Nova Scotia, the past few Christmases have been in either Fort McMurray or Calgary.
Travelling to Calgary is not so bad, there is a direct flight that ensures I can land in Calgary at just after 10 a.m, a perfectly respectful time to be picked up from the airport in my opinion, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day as you unpack and relax. Breakable gifts can be carried on in your duffle bag, wrapped in a bit of padding of course.
Fort McMurray? Not so much.
Those china birds that mom had admired? There is no amount of bubble wrap that can save them. Your bags will be put through the ringer as you go from flight to flight, and if you’re seated near a kicker, it’s an automatic game over.
Your day begins at 3:00 a.m. atlantic time – three hours behind us in Taber – after a mere four hours of sleep in order do the hour-long taxi ride to the airport, get through security and board the fight leaving Halifax at 5:30 a.m, only for it to take off at seven due to weather, land in Toronto five minutes before your scheduled plan leaves – the only one on time, might I add – and you have to break the record for the 100 foot dash in full winter apparel and two heavy carry-on bags in order to make it before the doors close.
Once on board, you get stuck next to the guy that not only smells, but is a spreader, leaving you with two inches of space to fold yourself into for the next five hours because he can’t make due with only one seat worth of leg room. You land in Edmonton where your flight is delayed (on the brightside, you can finally go to the bathroom), they change the terminal three times before the flight can be boarded and the flight still leaves another hour late.
You finally touch down in Fort McMurray at 11:00 p.m. mountain time, and have to wait another hour for the bags to be unloaded. By the time you arrive home, there is no tea and relaxing nonsense, just a zombie-like groan sounding vaguely like hello before you collapse on the nearest bed-like object, which may or may not be the dog bed, because at this point you’ve been travelling for 24 hours.
Getting back to gifts – they must be plane proof. Meaning nothing that can be mistaken for contraband or runs the risk of exploding. Gifts that can be placed in your suitcase are preferable, but really, who has that kind of luck?
Quite often they need to be taken in on carry-on bags, at which point they can be nothing that shatters easily, is pointy, edible or can be mistaken as a weapon. Things that may or may-not be breakable must be carefully wrapped – I find scarves most excellent in this – in a way that can be easily unwrapped in the event security may want to check it out. I once saw security make a granny unwrap these beautiful looking gifts because they couldn’t tell what was in the box. It was a book, and everyone in line shed a tear for her. And of course, everything must be under weight.
To be fair, I quite enjoy flying. It’s just that during the holidays, things get kind of nuts.
The chances of weather, delays, changing planes and rude passengers increase as more and more people cram into airports, and in December, they are cramming.
But this year, I just simply have to make sure that all my gifts – except for one sister, but again, the Calgary-Halifax flight is easy going – are car proof. Come next Wednesday I’ll be on my way to enjoying Christmas at my parent’s in Calgary.
Sure, I’ll be having a little less time eating gingerbread by the fire with my sisters, but I can also Christmas-fy my own place this year, and be around to enjoy it.
True, I will have to travel with Cat, but she’s quiet 90 per cent of the car trip and the little look on her face when she sees her best bud, my mom’s German Shepherd, again will be worth it.
Yes, I’ll have my work cut out for me in keeping Cat out of the tree, but I’ll be watching Home Alone with my sisters, drinking coffee with my mom and beating my dad at Mario-Kart.
The holidays can be stressful, and travelling can really suck at this time, but if all else fails, at the end of the road there is tea of the Christmas-variety to enjoy. If that fails, there is something a little stronger as well.