There’s something special about driving home on Christmas Eve in Nova Scotia. Home may be where the heart is but the country roads of Nova Scotia bring wherever that may be more clearly into focus.
Today I spent an hour driving the highway from Chester through New Ross to Kentville. It’s Trunk 12 for those looking to find it on Google maps.
The same weather system that brought all the misery of powerless, cold, dark nights to much of Eastern Canada, kissed the trees with a coating of icy, glistening beauty stretching through 80 kilometers of winding country road.
The pavement was bare. I think I may have met three cars along the way. I turned the radio on to hear a few family greetings on the CBC and a bit of cheesy Christmas music, but for the most part the trip was accompanied only by the sound of my tires on wet pavement and the occasional slap of a windshield wiper to clear the accumulating mist.
It was glorious.
I’ve made the drive to Annapolis Valley dozens of times every year. But Christmas Eve is always a bit different. There was a small bag of parcels for my Mum and family tucked beside the 45 gallon oil barrel tied down in the back of the jeep.
She uses these barrels to burn important documents in her backyard. According to my Mum, empty 45 gallon oil barrels are gold in this part of the world. I guess in rural Nova Scotia, burning old credit card bills is a priority.
It didn’t really matter what was in the car, it was the mission of delivery that made the day.
I remember in 1985 I left at midnight after my radio show to make the hour and a half drive on the 101 from Halifax to Berwick. In the back seat was a monstrosity of a centerpiece for the family dinner table. It was comprised of three red candles, anthereum, roses, bird of paradise, pineapple and God know what else, assembled by one of the more flamboyant florists in the city. I think it was 6 feet long and at least 18 inches wide.
Squeezing it into the back of my car I couldn’t imagine a more spectacular delivery.
When I carried the floral arrangement to the farmhouse door at 1:30 in the morning the fire was still burning and the house smelled of all the best things of Christmas. I still, remember the look on my mothers face when she saw this arrangement that looked something between a tropical garden and some bizarre funeral arrangement being squeezed into the kitchen along with whatever other bags I had dragged with me.
It’s “fantastic” she said. Probably the only word that would be sufficiently ambiguous to graciously receive something of its magnitude.
Regardless of its tastelessness…or as I like to think…ahead of its time elegance, Mum carried it in and put it on the table. It spread from one end to the other, hanging over the ends of Mum’s formal dining room table. There might have been a little room for the place settings, but not much. (Remnants of the arrangement appeared for several subsequent Christmas dinners.)
The delivery really didn’t matter. The feeling of putting something in the car and taking it to an awaiting celebration is one of the great feelings in the world.
You leave behind whatever tripe has been creating anxiety in your life and look ahead to the joy in the eyes of the recipient of your thoughtful gifts. The peaceful meditation of driving, allowing the nostalgia of Christmas pasts wash over you, brings the spirit of Christmas into being.
I hope I always have that drive to make. Alone, with my thoughts and my memories of Christmas past.
The great thing is, if all goes well, you can add a new memory…a laugh, a moment, even a bad floral arrangement to the repertoire of images that will make that Christmas Eve drive so special.
The good news is, Mum really liked her barrel, probably more than a tropical Christmas centerpiece.