Harley Hay

Harley Hay: The ghost of Christmas

Boxing Day. I remember Boxing Day before it was all about boxes. Back not that long ago when most of the stores weren’t even open on the day after Christmas. Way before people lined up in the cold dark parking lot hours before a big box store opened, just to risk life and limb to elbow their way to the 50 inch TVs. I’m wondering how social distancing worked out for those Boxers this year?

For me and my buddies, it became a tradition to go to a movie on Boxing Day. We’d meet at the Paramount Theatre on Ross Street downtown, head down the steps from the box office, past the giant aquarium to the concession counter, load up on popcorn and legendary Horseshoe suckers and head for the balcony.

It didn’t really matter what was playing, if it was at the Paramount and it was Boxing Day we were all in. And there was nothing quite like basking in the afterglow of another excellent Christmas up in the balcony at the “show” tossing tiny little popcorn bombs over the edge onto the packed house below. And everybody knows what you did after an hour or so of exhausting jaw work on a half-eaten Horseshoe sucker.

But swirling like a misty fog around all the resonating magic of a bustling Christmas of awesome gifts and excellent food and family cheer was always, for me at least, a feeling that could only be described as “bitter-sweet.” Like that “special” eggnog concoction your weird uncle brought for the adults and that you just had to sneak a taste of. And immediately regretted.

Only this post-Christmas Boxing Day feeling rested directly in your emotions instead of your gullet. I think they call it “melancholy.” From the Swedish “melon” as in “head” and the Spanish “colon” as in “intestine’ – literally: “head bowel.” A pensive sadness – a vague stomach ache in your mind, if you will. You are practically giddy with happiness because of Christmas and everything, yet at the same time, you’re sad because the big day is over and soon the tree and the lights on the houses will come down and January will descend like a really heavy person sitting on your chest.

But this Christmas the damn-demic changed everything. We were fortunate and thankful that both Rotten Kids were legally home and all four of us shared a special and unique Christmas but like many we greatly missed travelling to three or four different places and gathering in a mini-tornado of family bedlam over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

But one other thing was special and different this year in a good way. Zoom. No, I don’t mean that we moved around very fast, I mean communicating through the computer. You know, Skype, FaceTime, Google Meet. Zoom. Many of you dear readers have probably had a cyber meeting or two this year, so you know of which I speak.

Just before Christmas, out of the blue, I get an email from a long-time friend that none of us see very often, with an invitation to meet online. And so at 4 p.m. there we were, eight old friends scattered all over two provinces, together in boxes on a screen sharing beverages and laughs and outrageous stories with each other.

So this Boxing Day there was no movie, no Paramount Theatre, no popcorn mini-bombs, and no balcony boy sucker huckers. And instead of a bowel-headed melancholy there’s an ironic and welcome sense of connection that otherwise might not have happened.

It’s like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future arrived at our house all at the same time. And even though they had masks on, I could tell that they were smiling.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.