‘All the lanterns are lighted, the kids are invited, all chorus united, PINATA!’
My class was chosen to represent ‘Mexico’ in our ‘Around the World Christmas Concert’ in grade six. The lyrics above are just a few of the gems from the tasty lick that we were given. It was an awful song and at the peak of our social suicidal fears, we had to get up in front of all the cool grade sevens and eights and sing our hearts out to a song that quite honestly, we all mocked.
Every year, at Christmas time, I think about this song. It makes me smile. It makes me think of one of my best friends, Heather, who detested the song more than any of us and made her thoughts and opinions quite well known (as we all snickered about what she was saying). This song makes me think about my childhood, my naivety, and the time I showed up in a long floral print dress for my debut in the Christmas choir although it was painfully obvious when I walked in that the uniform was simply black pants and a white shirt.
Christmas is my favourite time of year. I love being with family, celebrating life, laughter and childhood and having an excuse to give presents. I still believe in the magic of Santa and the thought of being in bed early to ensure that he stops at my house encourages me to call it an early night every December 24th.
It wasn’t until last year that I experienced the most magical Christmas of all. You often hear people say that their lives flash before them when they are faced with a traumatic experience. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, it was my future that flashed before me; everything that I hadn’t accomplished or experienced rushed through my mind and this included the next sixty Christmases. Last Christmas was filled with a few tears because back in March, I wasn’t sure if I was going to see Christmas and here I was loving it just as much as I had loved every other Christmas. December 25th is my survival marker – when it’s Christmas, it means that I’ve made it through another year.
As I have learned at an early age; you only get one crack at life, money is just an object, and there are no guarantees so don’t wait your whole life to start living. Based on these life lessons, this year Keith and I decided to head down to New York City to experience Christmas in The Big Apple. I thought I knew about the magic of Christmas, well my friends, I knew nothing until I crossed the George Washington Bridge and entered the land of Manhattan.
Keith and I were there for four days and explored the hell out of the city. We did all the touristy stuff during the weekdays and left the walk up 5th Avenue and the tree at Rockefeller Centre for Saturday. Oh, and on Friday night, we went to see A Christmas Story on Broadway (that’s the movie with the little boy named Ralphie who wants the Red Rider BB Gun). Ugh! It was flippin’ amazing.
On Thursday, as we walked through the streets of Greenwich Village, I spotted a little girl singing Frosty The Snowman while she was holding her mom’s hand. It made me think about that time in my life, when I was little, when the thought of cancer never crossed my mind – mostly because I didn’t know what it was, but partially because I was too busy thinking about the amazing life that I was going to live. When I was this little girl's age, I thought about my future husband, my future kids and my future career. I dreamt about my dream home and all the toys that I would fill it with. I never wondered what the inside of a chemo centre looked like, I never pictured myself without a breast, and I knew nothing of this fear of recurrence.
The innocence of this little girl, the fact that she was singing like no one was listening, taught me a few lessons. In May, I did a bit of a 'project' where I cut out different words, sayings, pictures, and symbols from magazines and put them into a collage. One of the phrases read 'Your dreams miss you'. I didn't realize how much I had stopped dreaming and how much I had started planning. This little girl reminded me to keep dreaming because if anything, it's a great foundation for what the future will bring.
I'm slowly learning that whether I think about a future with cancer or one without, I am not going to be any more prepared to hear the words 'Your cancer is back' - worry and fear do not somehow better prepare us for disaster. In saying that, I feel as though it's this time of year where cancer doesn't get to stand front and centre in my life, it takes a back seat to magic, laughter, lights, family, and warmth.
This Christmas will be just as magical as all the Christmas' before and as I lay my head on my pillow on Monday night envisioning sugar plums dancing through my head, I will also be dreaming of my dream career with my dream kids, in my dream home and luckily I already have my dream man.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!