|Terry Randy Awashish
Aboriginal Community: Atikamekw
The Authors – 2009 Aboriginal Youth Writing Challenge
When we came back to school in January, 2009, after the Christmas break, my French teacher asked me to write about my Christmas vacation. So I decided to write an expressive text about Christmas, from my childhood to last Christmas, in 2008, because I didn’t want to do the typical piece about my experiences on Christmas vacation. I wanted to tell a story about the Christmases I had experienced throughout my life, because it’s something I had always wanted to do, and now the opportunity had presented itself.
My main motivation for writing about the events in my text was mainly childhood memories, moments that have stayed with me forever and that I wanted to get out on paper. So I decided to write the story that follows and I had a lot of fun telling it. The second motivator for writing the story is the changes that have taken place in my story of Christmas vacations, changes that allowed me to develop my text.
Le temps de fêtes
December 25, 1992 was my first Christmas Day, a joyful occasion for my parents and my grandparents, but which meant very little to me. However, I gave big smiles to my parents, my grandparents, my big sister and my entire family, and my tiny heart filled with joy. The prior evening had been a big party for the rest of my family, while I slept in my little bed, dreaming of a brilliant star.
The following year was my second Christmas. I was two days short of a year and eleven months old. I felt a profound sense of joy encouraging me to follow a shooting star until I reached a brilliant one. I was with my family that evening. The following year, the same thing happened. People asked me to dance and to laugh with all my might. I did so and they laughed along with me. Often it was my maternal grandfather who laughed the hardest. Once, I danced with him. I was still a little boy: he held onto my hands and we danced together and had fun. The whole family watched us dance; it was fun for everybody.
The years that followed were similar, but I didn’t dance anymore, because I was growing up and dancing embarrassed me. It was my little brother’s turn to dance. All I did was laugh, watching other people have fun and having fun myself, running here, there, and everywhere, like kids do. Often, I would give kisses to my grandparents, who would even ask for them before getting gifts. My father would dress up as Santa Claus, to make us happy and to convince us that Santa was real. Sometimes it was my paternal grandfather who dressed up as Santa. Every year was the same: we were all together, we celebrated the birth of Christ with a big family dinner, a visit to church, an exchange of gifts, and lots of hugs and fun.
We often celebrated at my maternal grandparents’ house. We started with the ‘Makocan’ dinner, then we had a party, then we went to Mass, then there was more revelry, and finally, gifts. Just like everybody else, we only did it once per year. My maternal grandfather, who had danced with me when I was tiny, was in a wheelchair from about 1999 onward. He could no longer walk, but happily he could still have fun with us. He was often seated near the Christmas tree, and we hugged him as we left the party.
December 24 and 25, 2003 were my maternal grandfather’s final Christmas, and it was still a wonderful holiday. My whole family was full of joy. Once again, we celebrated the birth of Christ with my maternal grandfather. And perhaps we celebrated with him several more times, because I felt his presence in the years that followed. My maternal grandfather died three months and two days after Christmas Day 2003. There were a lot of changes in my family after that, especially when the holidays arrived; nobody wanted to celebrate anymore.
After my maternal grandfather’s death, the joy that he had inspired in us disappeared, but we still had a proud sense of family. However, it was a quieter time at the holiday. My family gathered in relative silence, listening for the steps of the old man, hearing only the cries of the youngsters who ran around having fun. The change was very hard on me; I spent the entire day missing this man who was so markedly absent from my life. I spent the evening trying to sense his presence and I spent the night in tears, unable to stop crying. So from 2004 through 2007, Christmas was no longer the same, after the departure of my grandfather whom I loved so much.
During this period, I constantly thought about the past years, when we spent the holidays together as a family. The family never got together anymore; we just stayed home and didn’t bother doing anything. My mother no longer wanted to decorate the house; she didn’t even want to decorate a tree, but I did it instead. I decorated the house to make my little brothers and little sister happy.
This last Christmas of 2008 was even more upsetting, because a baby who was supposed to spend his first Christmas with us had died in early November 2008. This little baby was my nephew and I had been looking forward to giving him his first Christmas gifts. He had only a month, three weeks and three days to wait until his first Christmas, but he decided to fly up to heaven like a little angel.
On December 24, 2008, I woke up, my eyes brimming with tears of sadness. As I awakened, I cried silently, because I thought I had heard the sound of a baby laughing up above my room. I missed his smile. My sister’s room was just above mine, and it was also the baby’s room. That day, my brother-in-law’s family had organized a ‘Makocan’ dinner at our place. The tables were decorated with candles wrapped in photos of the little baby. The baby’s entire family was there and we quietly celebrated Christmas together. I told myself that I would celebrate on behalf of the baby, but it wasn’t easy.
To conclude, I would like to add that it would be great if things could be like they were before. I used to love Christmas, but not so much anymore, because I don’t celebrate, and I kind of pretend that it doesn’t even exist. If only I didn’t feel bitterness, it could be like it was before. But the bitterness gets worse as the holidays approach; that’s how I sense it. But when the holidays are over, I start to lose the bitterness, and when we go back to school after Christmas break, things get better.
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