Jingle Bell Hell: The Christmas Ruiner

Disclaimer: The name of the gentleman friend in question has been changed to protect the identity of someone who has no idea this blog exists.

I have a natural affinity for Hyperbole (as I am sure anyone who has read my blog has noticed). There is something beautiful in the art of slight (or major) exaggeration, especially when done right.

But this next story, dear reader, is not exaggerated at all. And, as a double whammy, it also serves to show that I have come by my love of hyperbole naturally.

Though I lived in Edmonton for nearly five years I never missed a Christmas in Victoria. I always took two weeks of vacation and flew home to visit friends and family for the festive season. In addition to the family traditions and get-together’s I always filled these trips with visits to see friends, making sure every second of my time was accounted for. It was a whirlwind of fun topped up with a fair amount of double booking and stress.

One such Christmas, and incidentally my first Christmas as a single lady in many years, I took an evening to visit my friend Josh. It was Sunday night and I had been cautioned before leaving for my non-date that I needed to be back at my parent’s house at a reasonable time as we were driving to Nanaimo the next morning and I would have to wake up early-ish.

My Dad justifiably loathed Josh and I honestly believe his lecture about being home early was more to do with cutting short my time with Josh than because he believed I couldn’t wake up by 10am, but that point is moot.

Still, like the good daughter I am, I kept his lecture in mind and researched the bus times thoroughly to ensure I would meet curfew. I had it all worked out, I would catch the 8:05 bus, transfer to an 8:20 bus, and be home before 9:00pm.

With my route home sorted I relaxed and spent a delightful evening with Josh. We had dinner and watched movies and just generally caught up with each other.

And then 7pm rolled around and my phone rang. It was my Dad.

“Sarah, I just want to remind you that you need be home early as we have a big day tomorrow.”

I assured my Dad that I had the bus times all worked out and reminded him that due to Sunday Schedules my bus only came every hour so yes, the 8:05 bus would be the earliest I could catch.

I settled back in to watch the movie and at 7:07pm my phone rang again.

It was my Dad. Again.

“Why haven’t you left for the bus?” I once again reminded him about Sunday Schedules and told him I would be home before 9:00pm. As I hung up the phone Josh laughed nervously, very keenly aware of how little my Dad liked him.

At 7:20pm my phone rang again. This time I was annoyed.

“Dad! I will be home by 9:00pm. If you would like I can call you when I am on the bus, but for now would you stop calling?”

My Dad launched into a lecture about family commitments and how we needed to leave exactly on time for Nanaimo the next day. He was not happy with my decision to stay out to the late, late hour of 9:00pm.

Well, we were even, because I was not happy with his decision to call my cell phone three times in less than half an hour.

I settled back onto the couch with Josh who had very conspicuously removed his arm from around me and was now sitting with a cushion buffer between us.

My phone rang two more times in the next ten minutes and I let the calls go directly to voicemail. With each ring Josh inched further and further away on the couch until he was practically sitting on the armrest.

Then at 7:45pm my sister phoned in a panic. “Sarah! Are you ok? Dad says he’s been trying to reach you for an hour and that you are out with Josh and he is worried something has happened to you because you won’t answer your phone. What’s going on?”

I literally growled before explaining to my sister that yes I had already talked to Dad, no I was not in danger, yes I was heading home shortly, and no I didn’t need a ride.

I went back to sit on the couch fuming only to see Josh hurriedly putting on his shoes, ready to walk me to the bus stop early and get me the heck out of his apartment. We walked in silence, the mood ruined.

When I finally made it home I was fuming and I didn’t hesitate to tell my Dad what a jerk he was being. Here I was 22 years old and completely humiliated while spending time with a boy that I liked.

My Dad responded in the most mature way possible, cutting off my tirade and yelling out that I was “Ruining Christmas for everyone!”

I stomped upstairs and went to bed early feeling furious.

The next morning I sat across from my Dad at the breakfast table. It was just the two of us as my sister was driving over to meet us shortly and my Mom was upstairs getting ready.

I stubbornly refused to say anything.

Finally my Dad cleared his throat sheepishly.

“I think I owe you an apology.” He began. “It seems I have forgotten how to parent in the years that you’ve been gone and I may have overreacted last night.”

I graciously accepted his apology.

Actually that’s a lie. I was a huge brat about it teasing him mercilessly and telling everyone the story of his overreaction. In fact, to this day my sister and I still yell out that I am “Ruining Christmas for everyone!” whenever something slightly out of the ordinary happens. It’s become a great tradition.

As a further disclaimer, Josh was always a bit of an ass and as I have grown wiser and older and I can see why my Dad was so concerned. Still, I don’t think my staying out until 9:00pm ruined Christmas for anyone, let alone everyone.

Of Love and Christmas Lights

My first love was a boy named Theo. We were best friends as children and I loved him before I even knew what the word meant.

But that’s not who this story is about.

No, this story is about a much, much later love. Jesse. Jesse was a boy I shared a class with in Middle School who I was absolutely obsessed with. He was blonde, which goes against my type, but somehow I still adored him.

Back in the day (and even now, I suppose) I always discussed things with my Dad, so of course he knew about my love of Jesse. Dad and I would sit together every Wednesday night in front of ‘Gilmore Girls’ and I would gush poetically about Jesse while my Dad would ask sensible questions like “Well, did you actually talk to him today?” and “How can you possibly be in love with someone you are afraid to talk to?”

(Sensible questions are the worst.)

My Dad and I talked about everything from the quick and witty exchanges Jesse and I had in my head, to the actual stilted and awkward conversations we shared in class where I stared intensely in what I thought back then was my best “flirtatious face” but have since realized makes me look a bit like Charles Manson. These were great times.

Still, I loved these talks with my Dad as they instilled a confidence in me that always lasted until the moment I came face to face with Jesse in the hallway.

When Christmas Break came about I was both relieved for the break from school and also despondent at my lack of Jesse time. I’m sure I whined about this a fair bit in the way that 14 year old girls always whine. But at least there were plenty of distractions over the holidays.

After the first week my whining died down a bit and on Boxing Day I went to my best friend’s annual Boxing Day Party which was delightful and distracting and at the end of the day my Dad came and picked me up.

He was in a jolly mood and suggested we drive around to look at the Christmas Lights in the area and I agreed excitedly, always happy to have Daddy-Daughter time.

I chatted away to my Dad about the party, completely self-absorbed and lost so much in my own head that I didn’t notice the way he intently looked at street names and actually drove in the opposite direction of some of the best light displays.

And then he stopped the car.

“Dad?” I asked curiously, mid-monologue.

“This is his house!” My Dad exclaimed excitedly.

Dread settled deep in my belly as I realized my colossal mistake. I had told Dad Jesse’s last name which he had then looked up in the phonebook.

“Oh God.” I slunk deeply into the seat and begged my Dad to drive away before anyone saw us. It was one thing to stare creepily at someone in school, but to park outside their house? Now that was a weird reputation I would never recover from.

“No, no, I’ve got it all worked out.” My Dad then proceeded to explain his plan to me. I was to go and knock on the door, pretending complete surprise when Jesse opened it. I would tell him that we had been driving around looking at Christmas lights and I had to use the washroom and this was the first house we had stopped at. He would let me inside, believing the encounter to be fate, and we would live happily ever after with lots of babies.

You see, dear reader, I come by my crazy naturally.

I hissed at my Dad, literally hissed at him and after another minute of sitting parked outside my love’s house we drove off, my Dad calling me a wuss and me calling him nuts.

Still, I suppose my Dad gets points for trying.

For the sake of full disclosure: Jesse never did find out we parked outside his house, and we never did get together. Apparently it’s hard to date a girl who stammers every time she looks at you.

The Poetry of Plagiarism

I was really and truly exceptionally weird and awkward growing up. I talked too fast, walked slightly bent over because I was self-conscious of how tall I was, giggled nervously at nothing, and suffered from a frozen tongue every time someone I wasn’t comfortable with tried to talk to me. This left me with a slightly bitchy reputation.

It was not good.

Still, occasionally I was able to make friends, forcing myself to talk to people until they finally decided that they liked me.

Often these friends were people who had already succumbed to the charm of my sister and were then forced into my company until they either decided they liked me or pretended to like me.

Eric was one of these friends.

Eric had known my sister for years and as such was forced to hear many great things about me (my sister is my biggest champion). Over time he didn’t just pretend to like me, he actually grew to like like me if you catch my drift.

*wink* *wink*

Ok. I am saying he had a crush on me. Now do you understand?

….

Oh. I probably didn’t actually need to explain it in further detail.

Anyways, one day Eric wrote me a poem. It was hauntingly beautiful and far better than I ever would’ve imagined a grade twelve stoner to write. I read it so many times there were slight tears in the folds of the paper. It was the most cherished of all of my mementos and I never missed an opportunity to brag about it.

Alas, that year Eric graduated and nothing ever came of our mutual “like-ness”. But at least I would always have the poem.

Fast-forward three years to when I was happily enjoying my English Literature Twelve Class. We had just started in on English Poetry, starting with Blake and Coleridge before moving on to Shelley and Tennyson.

Our teacher read out the poems with such emotion and gusto it was impossible not to fall in love.

And then came Lord Byron …

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

I sat up straighter in my chair, my eyes narrowing slightly.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

My mouth hung open in shock, the words stirring something in my brain.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

This was my poem! The poem Eric had ‘written’ for me!

I started giggling uncontrollably and everyone in the class stopped and stared. Here I was, the only person in the class who never raised her hand or offered an opinion during class discussions, laughing so hard I was choking.

I finally stopped laughing long enough to tell everyone the story about my errant suitor who had plagiarized what is arguably one of the most famous poems of the romantics.

The story was a big hit and it broke the ice with a quite a few of my classmates making that semester an enjoyable one.

And the poem? The poem is still something I cherish to this day, buried deep in my “Boy Box”. After all, what girl doesn’t cherish her first poem? Even if it is 100% ripped off.

rhyme

I wonder … would you still get the dime if you were the one writing the rhyme?

 

The Tale of the Disappearing Bus Stop

When we were teens my sister and I used to love to con my Dad into giving us rides. We were forever losing our change, deliberately missing the bus, or just plain begging. I’m sure it got annoying.
(I’m sure of this because my Dad said it got annoying.)

One summer we had done this so much that my Dad finally got fed up.

As we left the house heading to our friend’s house for the evening he told us that no way, no how, was he picking us up that night. If we lost our change or missed the bus we were on our own. And he meant it.

So Julia and I carried out the evening for once completely conscious of the time after checking and double checking the bus schedule. We were both careful not to have “too much fun” as too much fun is often the precursor to “I lost track of time”.

After an evening of moderately good times we made our way to the bus stop which was a 10 minute walk from where we were visiting. We walked quickly, both of us smug in the realization that we had done good, and we arrived at the bus stop several minutes early only to experience a huge shock.

The bus stop was gone.

Disappeared. Dug up. Kaput. Missing in Action.

Literally, gone.

And there coming up the hill towards us was our bus, eager and early.

We exchanged a look of sheer panic and ran to the next stop, racing uphill against time and transit and knowing deep down that it was impossible. Time seemed to slow down and we arrived at the next bus stop just as the bus was pulling away. My fist hit the door in desperation and the bus driver didn’t even spare me a glance as they drove away. Julia and I huffed and puffed in silence, starring at the ground.

Finally we looked at each other and made the silent agreement that Julia was to call Dad. She was always more charming and this situation needed charm.

Julia and I made our way to the nearest payphone and used some of our bus change to make the call. The conversation did not go well. After a month of our creative stories about why we missed the bus our “the bus stop disappeared” line just made it seem like we were no longer trying.

Dad was fed up and we were told to walk.

“Walk?” We both asked at once, Julia into the phone and me screeching in the background.

Yes. Walk.

The walk home was 45 minutes and it was after 9pm, the summer night was still light but stars had started to appear in the sky and it would be dark before we arrived home. My imagination has never done well in the dark, all the evils of the night always seem to cloud my head and to make matters worse the walk home passed a cemetery.

Obviously we were going to be torn apart by zombies and Dad would definitely be sorry.

Julia and I began the trek home, anger emanating from both of us as we walked, feeling unjustly persecuted. We complained bitterly to each other, our bond further strengthened by this new adversity, completely ignoring the dozens of times we had lied about why we had missed the bus. Here we had finally followed the rules and for what? It was ridiculous.

As we neared the cemetery a car slowed up beside us. Forget zombies, we were about to be kidnapped and sold into slave labour, never to be seen or heard from again. Dad would definitely be sorry.

We started to walk away faster when we heard the honk of the horn and turned around to actually get a look at the driver.

There sitting in the driver’s seat was my Dad. His mouth was a straight line and his hands gripped the wheel in annoyance. We hastily made our way to the car, for once fighting over who got to sit in the back as neither of us wanted to sit next to my Dad (there was no fly for him to swallow this time).

Julia cleared her throat and tried to say thank you for the ride, hoping that his appearance meant he had forgiven us. Instead he just grouchily told us that our Mom had told him to pick us up, her anxiety too much to allow us to walk home alone in the dark.

He didn’t say anything else to us that night and it wasn’t until the next morning that we heard from him.

Dad was calling us from work sheepish and sorry. You see, dear reader, Dad had noticed during his commute to work that morning that the bus stop was in fact gone, dug up by a construction crew who were repaving the sidewalk. We were vindicated.

Still, we made sure to leave even earlier the next time we left a friend’s house as the “disappearing bus stop” excuse definitely wouldn’t have worked again. Especially since it hadn’t even worked the first time.

“Phrases You Are Permitted to Use” (or, Comforting Your Daughter: An Instruction Manual)

When I was young I fell in love about once a week, hard and fast and always to boys I had never even spoken to let alone shared eye contact with. I day dreamed about these boys as they walked across the hall in middle school, staring in a just-shy-of-creepy way and feeling that I knew them deep down to the bottom of their souls if I recognized the band name on their t-shirt.

I always knew we would click instantly as soon as I gathered up the courage to say “Hi”.

I imagined all kinds of conversations taking place between me and my rotating roster of loves, and sometimes I even wrote about them. The boy in question would always find me refreshingly witty and I would be mysterious but oh-so-very interesting and we would fall in love for real, go to prom, get married, and live happily ever after. Sometimes there would be a love triangle, tragedy nearly tearing us apart, but true love always triumphed.

What can I say, I was maybe a little strange.

But sometimes my pattern of watching from afar and writing angsty novellas worked and the boy in question actually talked to me. Perhaps because he found my stalking adorable or maybe it was just to ask me whether or not we had any homework. Whatever the reason, when it happened (which it did far more often than I bet you would have guessed) I would blush from head to toe, mumble something inaudible, and speedily walk away in whatever direction was available, even if it was the opposite of where I wanted to go.

And then the highlight? I would go home and watch Gilmore Girls with my Dad, dissecting every moment of the encounter and asking him what he thought I could have done different (“Not run away for a start!” was usually his response).

Naturally this caused some memorable moments between my Dad and me, usually because he said the wrong thing and I ended up frustrated and feeling weird (probably because I was weird more than because of anything he said). It was our ritual.

Then one day in grade 10, to curb these instances of misguided parental advice, I wrote a list of “Phrases You Are Permitted to Use When I Am Upset” and gave this to my Dad.

The list is actually quite impertinent and apparently amused my Dad a great deal.

It also didn’t work as he continued on saying things I should be hearing instead of things I wanted to hear. The jerk.

Still, these chats with my Dad were a big part of my teenage years and I am very grateful for them.

So, without further ado, I give to you dear reader “Phrases You Are Permitted to Use When I Am Upset” (please note these still hold up today).

Phrases You Are Permitted to Use

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today, September 23rd, is my Dad’s 66th Birthday.

(Happy Birthday, Dad.)

To mark this special occasion I decided to write a post dedicated to my Dad and, I have to tell you, it has been a struggle. In the last few weeks I have written several stories that I can’t wait to share on the internet. Stories of disappearing bus stops and clueless humiliations, of drive by crushes and of dating applications. They are all great, wonderful memories from my childhood that make me laugh even to this day. The problem? They’re all a little mean.

As I am sure you have noticed, dear reader, I really enjoy picking on my Dad and I have 27 years of memories that provide fodder to this hobby. It’s quite convenient.

But for his birthday I can’t bring myself to tell a mean story. Childhood traumas are hilarious and my Dad certainly has a thick enough skin to read the love behind my hyperbolic retellings. But on his birthday? I just can’t do it.

So instead I bring to you, dear reader, a rare event. A heartwarming story dedicated to my Dad.

Every year the elementary schools of School District 62 got together for a large track meet involving students from grades 4 and up. It was supposed to be a fun event meant to encourage healthy lifestyles and a light but competitive drive in the students. Now, despite my current obsession with board games, I have never been a competitive person (remind me to tell you the story of the time I joined a soccer team) so I was completely out of place. Still, I was selected to run 100 metres as part of a relay team and I was really proud of this. (In the interest of full disclosure I was only chosen because pretty much every kid was chosen to compete in at least one event.)

The girls on my team were all part of the “A Team” (pretty, popular, and generally unpleasant) and I desperately wanted to be one of them. I went to every practice running my heart out knowing that if only we could win they would finally accept me into their ranks. My eagerness was creepy and I was just shy of having our “Best Friend” pendants picked out.

The day of the track meet finally came and I was nervous as all hell. I was meant to be running in the third position and I was terrified that the baton would slip from my sweaty fingers when it finally came to me. My stomach hurt and my legs wobbled all through class.

And that’s where my Dad comes in.

Dad had taken the day off work so he could come and see the track meet and cheer me on. He knew all about my “A Team Ambitions” and he knew how nervous I was. Dad smiled from the sidelines and I caught his eye before the baton came to me becoming instantly calm knowing that he was there.

I didn’t drop the baton and I actually did rather well. Still, our relay team came in dead last and, despite the fact that I had been tied for first with two other girls before passing the baton on to our final runner, the loss of the race was blamed on me.

I was devastated and ashamed when I left my teammates (more than a little glad that I hadn’t braided those friendship bracelets) and found my Dad who was grinning from ear to ear. He put his arm around me and told me what a great job I had done. Then he took me for ice cream (Ice Cream: the insta-cure) and we spent the rest of the afternoon having a wonderful time.

Those moments with my Dad are the only reason I can look back on that experience with any degree of fondness. He knew exactly what to say and exactly how to act, and my self-esteem was restored.

You see, dear reader, despite my endless stories to the contrary my Dad is actually pretty amazingly good at comforting me. Without him I would not be the cool, well-adjusted person I am today. (Or, at the very least, without him I would not be able to laugh at myself.)

Which is why on his birthday I can’t bring myself to say anything but Thank You. Thank you, Dad, for being you and for teaching me to be me.

Happy Birthday.

IMG_0476

The Coolest of Cats

The Elephant Fort

I was not always the most well behaved child growing up.

Shocking, I know, but it’s true. Sometimes I could be downright mischievous (though never truly “bad”). And though I’ve never been a good liar (honestly, I’m terrible at it) I can be quite good at avoiding the truth (I blame this on my writer’s blood).

There is no greater example of this than my Mother’s Elephant Figurines.

When I was five I was playing in the house with my then best friend, Theo. We were pretending to be explorers and were scouting the house for places to hide from The Bad Guys (always capitalized, never actually named). Of course the perfect spot just happened to be my parent’s living room behind the couch. After all, the couches had a semi-floral print which kinda worked as a jungle and it was far away from the babysitting kids who all occupied the family room. The only problem was we were completely exposed from the top. The Bad Guys could just look down and find us in an instant.

So naturally we had to build a fort.

We grabbed one of the green blankets (obviously green makes the best tree top canopy) and set to work. At first we tried a sloped fort, with the blanket just hanging off the couch and touching the ground, but it just kept slumping in and didn’t work at all. Then we tried anchoring it with He-Man’s castle.

That also failed.

Finally, frustrated by the failures, I spotted the perfect anchors. My Mother’s elephant figurines, perched perfect and waiting on the windowsill right by the couch. Theo was nervous but I insisted. They were brilliant, heavy enough to hold down the fort and small enough that we didn’t have to move things around on the windowsill.

And then everything went to hell.

I don’t know if Theo stood up too quickly or if I accidentally hit the blanket while gesturing wildly but whatever the reason the fort collapsed and with the falling blanket came the elephants, gravity pulling them quickly to the floor where they hit He-Man’s castle and then bounced on to the vent, breaking in several places.

We both stared in shock and a bit of terror.

Theo just turned and looked at me. Clearly I was going to have to fix this.

I whispered harshly at him to stand guard and I headed calmly into the family room for supplies, knowing exactly what needed to be done. I returned quickly, sweat across my brow and eyes darting nervously, listening for my Mom to see if she was going to check up on us soon.

Armed with white glue and a grey Crayola marker I performed an expert surgery, putting the larger pieces of the elephants back together and colouring in the chipped surfaces and white lines. It was remarkable.

We folded the blanket, put the elephants back on the windowsill, and vacuumed the spot (the sound of the vacuum alerted my Mom, but I told her I was playing Cinderella, a game I often played) before calmly heading back downstairs to play with the Lego. We didn’t discuss the elephants for a long time.

unnamed

See if you can spot the glue lines.

Our forgery wasn’t discovered until more than a year later when my Mom had actually inspected the elephants (either brought on by Mother’s intuition or just trying to show them to one of her friends). By then the grey Crayola markings had faded a bit and a smidgen of clear glue was visible along the leg of one of the elephants. At first my Mom was furious and when she asked me directly about the elephants I just couldn’t lie (not for lack of trying).

I confessed completely, telling her everything about the fort, the devastation, and finally the repair job.

Her anger faded away.

How had I, a very young child, managed to repair these elephants so well that the damage went so long without being discovered? They had endured multiple dustings and several instances of repositioning and no one had noticed a thing.

My Mom was in awe.

To do this day she still displays the elephants proudly, eager to tell friends and family about their destruction and repair.

Still, I never used another one of my Mother’s collectibles to anchor another fort.