Local storytellers share holiday memories
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
This holiday season, Metro Vancouver encourages residents to consider giving the gift of an experience instead of an item that’s soon to be discarded. Attending a local storytelling event like The Flame is one of many options.
This year’s holiday edition of The Flame featured writers, journalists, performing artists, and actors, all sharing their funniest and most heartwarming tales at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby on November 6.
The stage was set for the season with Christmas lights and artificial trees decorating the black backdrop, while the storytellers sat in mismatched, 1970s-style end chairs on the side of the stage as they waited for their turn at the microphone.
Metro Vancouver sponsored the event as part of the Create Memories, Not Garbage campaign. The performances will air on the Shaw channel throughout the month of December.
Sometimes the best way to spend the holidays is with your family, according to writer Jacques Lalonde’s story.
Christmas was a special time of year for his family when he and his brother would play hockey with the neighbourhood boys and his mom would get Christmas dinner on credit from a local store—the only store willing to offer credit to a single mother.
Lalonde’s dad left when he was two and his mother struggled to raise him, his brother, and his two sisters on her own. His mother compared the family to Popsicle sticks and gave each child one to break before daring the children to break five Popsicle sticks at the same time.
“But you could be the Incredible Hulk; you cannot break five Popsicle sticks. She said, ‘See? When we’re alone, we’re easy to break. When we’re together, nothing can tear us apart,’” he said sentimentally.
Grant Lawrence, a CBC personality and author, also had an emotional story about a member of his family—their three-year-old mutt, Pete—and the time the dog accidentally ate rat poison before Christmas.
Lawrence was a teenager at the time and couldn’t handle the vets’ news that his dog would die and, worse yet, that they wanted to euthanize him that day at the clinic.
“I begged my parents in the lobby of that animal hospital, ‘Please! Just force the vets to treat Pete!’ At great expense, mind you, which my dad was nervously eyeing. And again, I just wouldn’t let up. And finally, my parents relented,” Lawrence said, his eyes tearing up at the memory.
“And day after day after day that December, I went down to that animal hospital and Pete was laid out unconscious. […] Everyday, I would hug him and stroke him and lift up his big floppy ear and talk into his ear.”
Thanks to Lawrence spending time with the beloved pet, Pete made a miraculous recovery and lived to be 15 years old.
Having a holiday tradition can be an experience in itself, such as choosing to have a real Christmas tree because artificial just isn’t the same.
Actor Beverley Elliott, known for playing Granny in Once Upon a Time, shared her uproarious experience of getting a Christmas tree each year with her daughter, Sally.
All the things that could go wrong did, including the tree putting a large gouge in her dashboard as she stuffed it in the car, tying it to the car roof and then realizing she had tied her door shut, and having the tree die before the season was over.
She eventually had enough and was ready to give in.
“I drive to Canadian Tire. And I walk through the aisle of the 50 per cent off artificial trees,” Elliott said before singing a verse of “O Christmas Tree” in her lovely voice. “I can’t do it. I can’t buy a fake tree. I get why my parents had a 47-piece, dissembled balsam in a cardboard box in their attic for 20 years—had that thing up and down in 18 minutes flat—but that’s not me. I want a real tree.”
Elliott and her daughter continue to battle with bringing home a real noble fir as their Christmas tradition.
This year, make a memory, share an experience, and enjoy the holidays.