charles macdonald

Dad’s Christmas.

It began with the fresh spruce or pine tree that Dad would cruise through several tree lots beforehand to suss out who had “straight” trees.


Right.  A straight tree.


Then, he’d haul me around to different ones and pull a few out.  He’d get me to back up to see how straight it looked then give it a shake.  If a lot of needles fell out he’d put it back saying it was too dry to bring home.


We’d find a tree.  He’d throw it in the back of his red F150 half ton truck and we’d head home.


He’d pull out the tree stand and put the tree in the breezeway between the garage with a special cocktail of water, bleach and corn syrup he got from the New York Times one year to keep the tree healthy.

Then, we’d prep the living room.


This involved setting town clear plastic tarp in the entryway and the designated spot for the tree.  This spot was close to the door to eliminate as many needle droppings as possible.  It wasn’t about light or positioning or outlets for the Christmas lights… it was about needles.  He hated them!  He hated cleaning them up.  Even if I cleaned it up he hated knowing they were there on the blue/green tile floor.  And both he and I would miss one or two.  So when the tree came down after the Old Christmas date he’d walk by the door to get to the kitchen and he’d eventually pick a few off of his white socked feet muttering about needles.


This tree ritual lives on in my memory every year.  With love.  Because I miss it.  Because it made me smile.  Everyone has traditions they like to do or keep… Dad’s eccentricities were mine to keep.


I took over decorating the tree after Mom left and ended up donating all her ornaments to the Salvation Army so I could start a new tradition with my Dad.  Instead of an angry decorating tree ritual where my Mom would re-decorate after you we created memories to make Christmas a happy, joyful, spiritual place in our lives.


I miss him.  And this Christmas I’m creating my own tradition now that, after five years of grieving, I can start another fresh chapter in my life.


Oh, Christmas tree… Oh, and my tree?  Bought it online – fake, set up by a pole and pre-decorated so it’s definitely straight.

Dad carving the turkey!

Dad carving the turkey!



1997 was a busy year for me – I found old photos in a room I just cleaned out at the house and went through them last night.

It was the best of times…It was the worst of times.  You know the saying.  All character building I’m sure.  :-)

I graduated with a B.A. English Literature from Trent University.  I moved out of my first apartment in Peterborough, Ontario and went on a Contiki Tour through Europe before ending up at Cambridge University for their summer session of Medieval Courses.  I visited friends in Peterborough while I searched for a place to live in Toronto that would accept me as having a temp job through the Keith Bagg Agency as employment.  I often wondered what I was going to be able to eat each day until I got an apartment, a real job and I could pay for groceries at the local Loblaws.  The money I had saved working as a Telemarketer at Trent University was dwindling.

Here’s a pic of my first apartment in Toronto.  The landlord had 17 cats.  I slept on the floor until I managed to get a sofa bed delivered by a hotel going out of business.  Ugh.  My furniture that is wooden is the basic stuff from IKEA and up until recently I still had most of it out of nostalgia.

I decided to take a publishing course at Ryerson University and got an internship which paid $500 for 3 months of work.  However, I got the job.  I was able to travel and work directly with a Vice President of U.S. Sales and Marketing.  It was stressful but paid the bills.

Here’s a pic of my Dad and I celebrating Christmas that year.  He actually acknowledged that I could now drink alcohol with him.  A big step after being legal for 2 years beforehand LOL.  I miss him all year but when I lived in Toronto he looked forward to seeing me at Christmas so the holidays are especially hard.  I think of everyone else in this world that has someone to miss at this time and while he left my life too early I understand that the lessons I’ve learned since his passing are invaluable.  Thanks to both my Mom’s family and my Dad’s family for support.  Hopefully, at the Port Wallis United Church’s Blue Christmas service I’ll see people who struggle like me at this time each year and realize that we all have to let go of the pain of separation and see the joy our loved ones brought us instead.