The New Holiday
Traudel opened the small door to her “step in” bedroom closet. She glanced inside the cramped space overstuffed with dresses, shoes, purses and sweaters. Unsure what to wear to the neighbour’s Christmas party, she contemplated what garment would appear appropriate. Something understated, but respectful, she thought. It was her first Christmas in Canada with the girls. The email from Myrtle, her neighbour four doors up the street, made the gathering sound casual, but indicated that dinner would be served, which added a level of formality. “It is a chance to meet your other neighbours”, Myrtle wrote.
Traudel’s hand brushed lightly against the outdated dresses that hung inside her closet as if suffocating from too close quarters. Her collection of dresses dangled awkwardly from the top bar of a makeshift closet organizer that was neither sturdy or functional. After a few minutes of frustrated searching, she pulled free an uncomplicated knee length black wrap dress. Satisfied with her selection, her attention turned to Violet and Vesper who, she was certain, would be in an equally tense state. She knew they were nervous about the party and had no idea what to wear or what to anticipate. After a few minutes of focused attention, each girl’s closet offered a choice that was agreeable to the wearer and to Traudel.
This Winnipeg winter was unusually warm. The weather report called for temperatures hovering around freezing, but nothing like the subzero Arctic cold conditions she’d read or been previously warned about. Her friends back in London bought her a Cloudveil down-filled ski jacket as her going away gift. Designed for skiing in Jackson, Wyoming, they felt it the perfect gift. They laughed and gently teased Traudel about Winterpeg and why it had deserved this chilly revision to its name. She nervously laughed in her unsuccessful attempts to seem merely amused by their comments.
Traudel had been living in the UK since she was 18. While she had been used to inclement weather, the idea of voluntarily relocating her daughters to Canada seemed almost foolhardy upon more than a moment’s serious contemplation. Her employer, a multinational insurer with offices all over the world, offered her a leadership position in Winnipeg. After weeks of talking over the pros and cons with Vesper and Violet, the three girls decided to take the plunge and make the move. It was an opportunity of a lifetime for Traudel who had been working her way up the ranks of the same company since her move from Cornwall to London ten years ago.
The girls convinced their mom that they longed for adventure and Winnipeg seemed as good a place as any to begin an entirely new chapter. “Canada was a British colony and 1982 wasn’t really all that long ago.” Vesper noted with a matter of fact air as she effortlessly looked up from her tablet. “It was only then that legal control of the Parliament was transferred from British rule with the enactment of the Canada Act.” Violet, 16 and full of naive impatience sighed in frustration. She felt certain her younger sister read too much and comments such as this one poignantly reinforced her book-smart quirkiness.
The move wasn’t their first, nor was it as monumental as it seemed. Travelling over an ocean to another continent proved to be far less traumatic then their journey from Cornwall to London after the painful sting of reality struck home. Enyon had left them for good this time.
With the look of someone who had no idea what she hoped to find, Traudel now stared into the tiny front hall closet of their 1970 kitschy townhouse in search of a warm winter coat. On this last Sunday before Christmas, her mind seemed particularly distracted as her thoughts travelled like the TARDIS back in time. It took her to a memory where innocence and hope seemed in ample supply.
Traudel Hofnung left Munich when she was 18. She jumped at the chance to leave home. Wanting to perfect her English and pursue her love of all things British, she quickly accepted the job offer to become an assistant steward at St. Mawes Castle in Cornwall. It was one of King Henry VIII’s coastal fortresses. Traudel’s naive romantic notions about working in an ancient English castle would not be denied. No matter how seemingly remote, this former artillery fort built around 1540 continued to welcome travel-seasoned visitors year after year.
Traudel, cajoled by her colleagues to join her at the local pub, met Enyon after he, not watching where he was going, collided with her straight on while carrying an almost full pint of ale. Enyon was two years her senior and seemed far more worldly and mature. After quickly apologizing for the mishap, he resourcefully secured a towel and a fresh pint for Traudel. Enyon's eyes, Traudel marvelled, looked like chocolate pools of liquid sweetness as they showered her with an ever present gaze. Traudel soon found herself lost in his distinct Cornish accent and couldn't seem to pull herself free. With the concentration of a Russian chess player, she found the way he pronounced the sound after every vowel a lyrical brilliance. He proudly exclaimed that Cornwall was one of five Celtic nations of the British Isles and that it remained part of mainland England.
Traudel didn't consider mentioning that this wasn't new information to her. She didn't want him to think her a know-it-all sort of foreign girl. She enjoyed listening to him and revelled in securing his full attention. He didn't make her feel self conscious about her own accent. She found herself volleying question after question at her fabulous Englishman who entertained her with lively responses that always seemed to lead to a witty retort or a descriptive retelling of a favourite cornish tale. With no ability to predict her future, she basked fully in love's first blush.