There will always be that year where Christmas and New Years look a little bit different. Safe to say it’s been so for everyone.
With an impending Boxing Day lockdown, I was fortunate to be happily holed up with my boyfriend, opening gifts on Christmas morning in front of our 2-foot tree. Fast-forward to today, we’ll be quietly but excitedly ringing out the year we’re aching to put behind us.
I’m typically not a winter snowbird, so the absence of travel during the Holidays has had little impact. Regardless, I’ve prepared for a rough winter ahead with my full supply of Vitamin D and my yoga and boxing routines planned out. Despite my love for travel, I have a reverse tendency for sedentariness while home-bound, exacerbated by COVID restrictions. Therefore, it’s only fitting that I’ve kept my New Years resolution quite simple – go outside and explore my city.
Before I knew it, December approached, bringing scattered flurries over Toronto. While work was winding down, I had my last vacation days to use up. So, the morning after our first snowfall, I traveled 500 metres by foot to Dufferin Grove, snapped pictures and grabbed a coffee and a hot lunch.
Situated along the street of the same name, Dufferin Grove is a scenic respite from the busy mall across the street with a playground, ice rink and a soccer field. An abundance of green space covers the park, where we spent warm summer afternoons with cans of cider and a smorgasbord of snacks. It’s a new favourite spot of mine, mostly because of the beautiful, tall trees lined perfectly along the winding pathways, shielding me from the sun. After the first rain or snowfall, droplets and flakes would shower down from the branches, blown away by gusts of wind. I could feel the raindrops splattering the top of my head.
The pictures that I took were later edited with VSCO and Lightroom on my iPhone. I framed my best compositions by simply moving my feet, maintaining balance between my subjects which were the trees and lampposts. My eyes were constantly tracing the zigzagging lines of footprints in the snow as I walked. I particularly liked this one below, amplifying that 1-point perspective akin to a winding road. I envisioned that light at the end as a metaphor for things to come next year.
When I got home, I did some research about the history of my new neighbourhood. I learned that Dufferin Grove was originally settled by the Denisons, a family who emigrated to Canada from England in 1792. The area was rich in soil and agriculture, and the crops they cultivated gave them great wealth. The neighbourhood’s most notable streets, such as Kyle’s old street of Rusholme, and our current street Dovercourt, derive from their county villas, “Rush” “Holme” and “Dover” “Court.” By the 1880s, row houses gradually replaced fields as the city urbanized, and today it’s notable for its local shops, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s also worth mentioning that although we couldn’t see Portugal this year, we moved instead to Toronto’s own Little Portugal. It’s a comfort knowing that we’re now blocks away from grabbing a bottle of port or some pastel de natas.
By Christmas Eve, our plans were scrapped due to the impending Boxing Day lockdown. Instead, Christmas was filled with Zoom gift-openings and soothing holiday music crooning through our apartment speakers. After braving the storm of crowds Christmas Eve morning, I returned from the grocery store with fresh salmon and remaining sheltered from the misty rain. But once the temperature dipped, the mist had turned into snow, falling fast and lining our trees and rooftops with sheets of white. The storm continued throughout the evening and into Christmas morning, the first white Christmas in Toronto in years.
Around 9:30 p.m on Christmas Eve, Kyle and I embarked on a trek into the storm, returning to Dufferin Grove with beers in hand. Along the way, we saw passersby in small groups, some taking their dogs for a nighttime stroll. I took out my phone and snapped more pictures from the same spot as before, with the lights illuminating the snow in soft blue.
By shuffling our feet, we started drawing words and faces in the snow, taking full advantage of our unlimited space. I cracked open my can of beer, tracing my name in capital letters with my boots. Suddenly, we heard loud yipping echoing through the air as a tiny white dog escaped from its owner’s clutches to see us, dragging its leash through the ground. The dog blended so well with the snow that I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. It barked and barked at everyone in sight, until the owner whisked it away, while wishing us Merry Christmas.
Upon walking home, we took a detour down Rusholme Road to see more lights. Before turning the corner, I watched a door swing open and two young kids in Superman pajamas jumping out ecstatically at the sight of falling snow. “It’s going to be a white Christmas!” one of them exclaimed repeatedly, as the father stood in the doorway. I laughed quietly and felt a warm tingling inside (and it wasn’t the beer). I thought you only saw those moments in classic holiday movies.
Despite missing our family, Christmas 2020 delivered some meaningful moments. They were the same kind of moments I experienced while traveling but even more special this time. Not only did Kyle and I treat ourselves to a hygge Christmas, but we made a conscious effort to slow down time amidst the stresses of remote working. I missed the opportunity to travel, and admittedly, I struggled this year to refine my creativity and find and stories to tell. From this quiet Christmas holiday, I realized that you don’t need to search far and wide for these stories, as they live all around me, even at home! This is why the word Sonder is so powerful.
Hope everyone’s 2021 will be safe and full of stories from special places, whether from home or hopefully a little further away!