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Lyrics and Life

By Caitlin Ward

11/29/2017

 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Bing Crosby

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow
And mistletoe
And presents ’neath the tree

Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

I’ve been sorting Skittles the past few nights. That’s not a metaphor. Literally, I’ve been sorting Skittles. My sister who once again cannot come home for Christmas mentioned a few weeks ago how Skittles were making her homesick. In England, purple candy is usually black-currant flavoured, whereas here it is grape-flavoured, so when she has Skittles in England, every purple Skittle is a reminder that she’s not in Saskatoon.

On the one hand, this sounds sweet and sad, but if you knew my sister you would know that her homesickness can manifest itself as blind rage, so it’s often as funny as it is poignant to hear her rail against purple candy, the abundance of instant coffee, or how everyone stops in the road without reference to other people.

Culture shock manifests itself in the strangest ways, sometimes. It’s not the accents, the buildings, the money, or even the weather; it’s the purple candy that doesn’t taste like grape, and the eight-day wait for a temporary parking permit, and the marshmallows that are made with sugar instead of corn syrup, and the perogies that aren’t in the freezer section of the grocery store. It’s that everything is a little different no matter what, that you are always not from there, and for God’s sake, why does the sun set so early here?

There’s something a little uncomfortable about your existence all of the time when you’re an immigrant. There’s something slightly off. There are always the subtle but constant reminders that, no matter how long you live there, and my sister has lived in England for half her adult life, you are not from there. This is not home.

This feeling gets a bit stronger for my sister around the high holidays. High holidays revolve around family, and for us, around church, as well. Many of my more vivid memories are wrapped up in those times: me, at four, taking the brass bell my sister picked off the tree at St. Phillip Neri Parish and brought to me because I was stuck at home with the chicken pox on Christmas morning; standing around the Advent wreath every evening singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel”; going over to my grandma’s house for the Feast of the Holy Family, because we’d had her over for Christmas the week before; breaking down crying in the chapel at St. Peter’s Abbey at the age of 18 or 19 on Good Friday because I really understood, for the first time, what we were commemorating that day.

Time telescopes and it sutures on high holidays, and on Christmas Day we are not just celebrating this year, but also remembering every year that we have celebrated. Our family traditions become rituals that dovetail with the church’s, and it’s a reminder not only of Christ, but of each other.

So I’ve been sorting Skittles. Every year they can’t come home to visit, along with presents from Etsy or Amazon, I send my sister and brother-in-law foods that are hard to come by in England: the cheese packets from boxes of Kraft Dinner, a family-size pack of Bridge Mixture, Cheezies, Kraft peanut butter (smooth, not crunchy), root beer syrup to mix with sparkling water, and this year, a bag of purple Skittles. I picked out the purple ones from six mega packs of Skittles, and put them all in a freezer bag in a box bound for St. Alban’s, Great Britain.

I’ve learned a few things about Skittles in the past week: one, purple candy is seriously underrepresented in most packets of Skittles. I have a two-litre Glad freezer container full of red, orange, yellow, and green Skittles. At best, I have a mediocre-sized bag of purple Skittles. I am tempted to buy more so the bag I send my sister is a more reasonable size, but that brings me to point two: it is surprisingly hard to give away Skittles. I tell my Ukrainian Catholic friends they’re vegan, so they aren’t breaking the Nativity fast. I tell everyone else that they’re free, and they’re sweet, and who doesn’t want candy? It gets me nowhere. I still have a two litre freezer container full of every kind of Skittle except purple. I’m beginning to wonder if everyone secretly likes the grape Skittles the best, and they’re resentful I’m trying to force subpar Skittles on them. To be honest, grape Skittles are probably my favourite flavour next to orange ones, so I don’t entirely blame them.

So instead I eat handfuls of Skittles for breakfast along with my coffee. I eat Skittles before bed and try to brush them out of my teeth with limited success. I have grown to hate Skittles on some level, except that I don’t, quite. I know that at some point, in January, they will be a source of comfort for my sister when she’s sad she couldn’t come home for Christmas once again this year.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings