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December 24, 2022

Christmas at the local coffee shop

7:30 a.m. at the coffee shop
This morning, as I and three other early birds entered the coffee shop, we were met with an astonishing sight. Christmas had transformed the shop overnight. The window frames, hanging lamps, candy shelves, menu boards, window sills and chocolate displays — everything had been enlivened with a touch of red. Even the background music had changed its tune.

Several mouth-watering pastries were teasing our taste buds. Many of the regular clients wanted to touch the empty wrapped gifts leaning against each other under the huge, festively decorated tree. Even I, an old lady, trembled like an excited child. My heart had just been touched by the magic of Christmas! That entire glorious Saturday morning slid right by like Santa’s sleigh on its way to rooftops.

I immediately think of old St. Nick, who has been galloping across the snowy skies in December since time immemorial, his long white beard covered in frost, his big belly swathed in red and his warm voice turning into laughter as he sits in his sleigh, filled with thousands of gifts to delight kids around the world.

I still remember the time I brought my young kids to a shopping centre filled with people running left and right, their arms full of purchases wrapped in shiny Christmas wrapping paper. You should have seen how surprised we were when we saw Santa in the middle of the food court seated on a big, red throne, covered in red velvet cushions and flanked by an army of poinsettias at his feet. The only thing we could decipher in this avalanche of red was Santa’s long white beard, his mustache and his overgrown brows, all as white as immaculate snow.

My daughter pulled my sleeve to ask the identity of the beautiful lady whose gloved hands were resting on Santa’s shoulder. My oldest son explained to his sister that she was the Christmas fairy who hands out candy to children. After waiting in line in front of Santa for a good long hour, each child was finally given a mini candy cane in the palm of their hand.

We were poor at that time, but we rejoiced after seeing Santa. The kids drank hot cocoa with three tiny marshmallows floating in the hot beverage. It warmed my heart to see their beautiful smiles, each one adorned with a creamy moustache. Of course, they begged me to buy them fries, burgers, a slice of pizza or other small food court treat so they could believe, just for a moment, that they were like all the other kids in our neighbourhood. Instead, I had to promise them Kraft dinner, “a real one!” as my oldest used to say, in order to finally get them to leave the shopping centre.

Thank goodness, we survived and even thrived.The children finished high school and helped me in the restaurant. All four of us had several cooking talents, hidden I don’t know where, and we were especially good with breakfast food. Year by year, a large breakfast chain grew across Canada through new partnerships with incredible franchisees. The children have had kids of their own, and a new generation of resilient, courageous adults is now escaping their ancestor’s karma.

High noon
Leaving the café festooned in red magic half reluctantly, I decide to drive north to admire the traditional festive decorations. I stop at the convenience store in my area, like I do every Saturday, and buy the weekend papers and fill up the tank. Saint-Sauveur is already thick with tourists when I get there. It's always the same kind of curious people who scour the shops for one-of-a-kinds, exclusive finds or seasonal discounts. Moving at a snail’s pace along the main road, it appears that Saint-Sauveur hasn’t yet gotten into the festive spirit. I still haven’t seen the huge Christmas decorations that usually amaze the locals and visitors alike. Even the storefronts are a bit sad to look at; just one more casualty of the terrible labour shortage we are experiencing across the planet at the moment. An entire generation of workers is apparently missing. Let’s see if the Asian restaurant is open. It is! I stop at Thai Express for a tasty chicken pad Thai with extra broccoli. Rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, fibres and mineral salts, the al dente broccoli enriches me nutritionally. When I buy broccoli at the grocery store, however, I never manage to eat all the florets before they go bad.

We will feast this Christmas! Turkey, tourtières, pork stew, cipâte and baked beans will be in the middle of the table surrounded by the children’s favourite vegetables, including slightly braised broccoli, served with my special secret sauce.

It already feels like Christmas as I drive back from Saint-Sauveur, admiring a row of purple and pink cumulus clouds kneeling on the horizon.

I wish you a most wonderful holiday, dear readers. May you all enjoy delicious moments surrounded by friends and family.

Cora
🎄

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