I must write this story before my mood is poisoned by any bitterness of reality.
I’m 14, I live on the military base of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, a tiny radar station 10 kilometers from the city of Yorkton proper. In grade 9 now, I bus that 10 kilometers into town to the civilian junior high school, the first (turns out only, until university, that is) civilian school I’ve ever attended. It’s early December, and already a mid-winter frozen prairie landscape where I live. And this coming Saturday, our school is hosting a Christmas dance. And the base will put on a special bus to take the 9th grade handful of us from our military trailer-park style housing into town, to the school, just for this dance. (One of the boys had a Transport Officer for a dad, or probably a Sergeant, with maybe less authority, but enough audacity, to arrange this.) The dull green van as pumpkin turned coach to my Cinderella story. You see, I’d just received that day the Eaton’s catalogue order of the lime green floor-length shiny polyester dress with the white peter-pan collar and empire waist. Fabulous, baby. It is 1972.
“It’s perfect, Mom! It fits!”
“Hmm, a bit too long. I’ll hem it.”
“I don’t mind it long. I want to wear my low shoes and don’t want them to show.” I don’t have the new chunky ones that are becoming the style these days, just an old pair of Mary-Janes that I carry to church on Sundays to change into out of my boots. A bit tattered on the straps, but rescued in time before Cognac, our dog, got to chew them completely to bits.
“Well, let’s see. And calm down, you’re getting pretty excited. The dance isn’t for 3 more days.” This was said with a smile.
“Well, I am excited. There will be decorations and someone playing the records up on the stage. And remember Sally? My best friend from grade 7 who moved away last year? She’ll be there, she lives in town now.”
“And the boys? Anyone you’re looking forward to?”
“Ok, ok. But I’m warning you, well, not warning, but really, Mickey, you shouldn’t get too excited. You never know…”
“What? Never know what?”
“Well, life doesn’t always turn out as great as you anticipate. Don’t get your hopes too high. Then you won’t be disappointed.”
Today is Dec. 3, 2020. That dance was wonderful, I think, but certainly not the fairy tale I’d built up in my head. I didn’t meet my Prince Charming or anything. In fact, I remember my anticipation and my mother’s wise warnings more clearly than anything about the dance.
And so, today, in this year’s version of early December, a lifetime and universe removed from that prairie teenage memory, I feel that same hopeful anticipation, the building excitement when the news came yesterday about Britain and even Russia declaring approved vaccines that could be distributed before the end of the year. My heart leaped in that familiar way, the pounding, the flooding of hormones. Of excitement. I recalled that my faraway military son and his wife were planning to come for a short Christmas visit in a few weeks. I’d bought a new tree and an extra decorative stocking for Janna in preparation. Then a final wonder in that classic triumvirate, where of course things happen in threes, my curling club announced a December re-opening. Well, for practice times, maximum two people per sheet of ice only, and one hour per week per member, but still…my winter sport was sort-of back!
But behind all of this wonderful December 3rd news, as the mood rises, then starts to soar logarithmically, always, always, that voice of caution. Don’t let your hopes get too high. It’s hard not to, but Mom’s not often been wrong on this one. So, I shall enjoy this day and make my curling reservation and phone my son tonight. Then tomorrow I shall calmly turn on the news again, and see that there may be glitches delivering the vaccine. My son and his wife will phone back and regretfully decide that we must not get together in person this year, but soon, after the vaccine, for sure. Disappointment? Of course.
But curling is still booked. It’s only December 4th. What will the rest of the month hold? Ever wrestling with the hopeful, I endure.
PostNote: It’s December 29 now. Mom was right. That vaccine is here, but Canada is particularly slow getting it into our arms. The lockdown becomes ever more restrictive, and borders are again pondered in smaller and smaller outlines. Our leaders are leading from behind. I did have my recently-widowed brother over for a night, to enjoy my new Christmas tree, to emphasize the paucity of this year’s version of the season. I’m not complaining. The disappointment with the whole year threatens one’s defenses, and we try hard to hang on. But oh, 2021 beckons, it lures our hopes forward again, that ever-elusive hope for normal life to return. We’ll see. It’s been my lifetime of experience that one can never really return to anything in the same way as we left it. But, In the meantime, Happy New Year! What else can I say?