Sunday, November 21, 2010

Better not pout, better not cry...

Sorry, Santa. The Big Guy is coming to town today, & -- despite the warnings in the song that I'd "better not cry" -- I am (as I am most years on this day) a weeping, melancholy mess.

Since its humble beginnings as a promotion for Eatons department store in 1905, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade has become an institution -- one of the biggest, longest-running & best-known parades in the world -- with more than half a million people lining the 6 km route and millions more watching on television, not only across Canada but in the United States and around the world.

Years ago, when Eatons was the sole parade sponsor, they would load up the floats on a train & take the parade across the country, to Winnipeg and then Vancouver. My mother saw it once, in the early 1950s -- her parents & her brother made the 60-mile trip to Winnipeg on the train for the day -- & she never forgot it.

And when I was about 10, she took my sister & me to Winnipeg for the weekend so that we could see the big Santa Claus parade ourselves. We were living several hundred miles away then, which meant a weekend trip, staying at one of my aunts' houses. We went to the parade with her & several of my cousins, & we had a blast. It wasn't the Eatons parade -- they had stopped the cross-country tour by that point, although they were still sponsoring the Santa Claus Parade in Toronto, right up until just before I moved here -- but it was still a big parade & a big deal, and a great childhood memory. (Funnily enough, my main memory of that day is not so much of Santa, but of seeing local children's entertainer Uncle Bob & Archie, & all the kids hollering, "Uncle Bob! Hi, Uncle Bob!!")

25 years ago, when I was newly married & finding my way around my new city, when the ads & news stories for the parade started in local media, I told dh we were going. "You want to what??" was his reaction, and that of his family members. "The Santa Claus Parade? Really??"

"Darned right," I replied. "All my life, I've watched the Eatons Santa Claus Parade from Toronto on television; now that I'm here, I want to go see it in person."

Dh rolled his eyes but we went. I can't vouch for him, but I had a wonderful time. As the parade climaxed & the jolly old guy in the red suit finally sailed past us, booming out hearty greetings to the children waving to him (these days, he carries a microphone in his hand), I felt tears stinging my eyes. (I'm a sentimental sap, always have been.)

About 10 years later, probably right around the time we were seriously thinking about starting ttc, we went again -- this time with two of dh's cousins, his brother and five pre-schoolers, bundled into snowsuits & warmed by thermoses of hot chocolate. As it was before ttc, stillbirth & infertility, there was no angst involved on my part. It was just all-round, pure fun being able to share this tradition with our two nephews and their cousins, and I am so, so thankful they invited us to share that day with them -- so glad we did it, & that we have those happy memories to look back on.

We haven't been back since then, but I still watch the parade, or parts of it, on television. And it never fails to bring me to tears, especially at the very end, when the band, on cue, starts up with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and the jolly old elf sweeps into view on his traditional float (may they never change it) with his 8 tiny prancing reindeer.

I don't even have to watch the parade anymore. Just thinking about the parade can get the tear ducts working these days, it seems. I had to discreetly wipe my eyes on the commuter train into work this week, reading stories about the upcoming parade; yesterday, I had to pull out the Kleenex when I opened the newspaper & found a full-page ad showing the parade route; at lunchtime today, I was making sandwiches when the radio news broadcast a report from the parade route (people had been starting to line the route at 7 a.m.) & dh said, "Yes, we can watch," I had to put down the butter knife & reach for the Kleenex. I have tears rolling down my cheeks right now as I type this, just thinking about it.

Dh looked at me, perplexed, & I just shrugged. "I don't know why," I said. And I've been thinking ever since then: why does the Santa Claus Parade, of all things, get me so weepy? Here a few reasons I've come up with:
  • It's Sunday. For another mysterious unknown reason, I often find myself weepy on Sundays. I've done reading on "Sunday night blues" and apparently this is not uncommon. Which is somewhat comforting.
  • It is a grey & dreary day, reinforcing a melancholy mood. It's hard to stay weepy when the sky is blue & the sun is shining.
  • It's November.
  • It was a stressful week at work, & next week is not going to improve.
  • I am perimenopausal, & PMS-ing. My hormones are running amok.
  • As I said, I a a sentimental sap. The parade reminds me of my childhood -- a more innocent, carefree time, rapidly receding into the past.
  • The parade reminds me that I do not have a child of my own to take to the parade and continue the tradition.
  • The parade reminds me that I should have had a baby in November & be celebrating a little girl's birthday right about now.
  • I remember in 1998, looking forward to the November birth of my daughter, wondering whether I would be in the hospital with her when the parade was on. I had a vision of watching the parade from my hospital room window (the parade route goes by several of the city's major hospitals) with a newborn in my arms.
  • We spent part of yesterday with my cousin (who recently moved to this city), his visiting mom (my aunt -- another reminder of my childhood), his wife & their little girl -- whose birthday party is today.
  • Being with my relatives, seeing my cousin (whom I remember as a baby) with his own little girl, reminds me of those long-ago days when we were kids together on my grandparents' farm, and how rapidly the years are flying by.
  • It reminded me of my uncle, his dad (whom he resembles), who was one of my favourites, & who died far too soon in his early 50s, the age dh is now, leaving my aunt a widow at about the same age I am now.
  • For several years, the broadcast would end with Karen Carpenter singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" over the production credits -- a song & a singer that both have the power to move me to tears.
I can analyze all I want, I guess, but the reality is, there is something about this day & this event that gets me weepy, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do about it. Or that I WANT to do anything about it. Sometimes a little weep is good for the soul. Pass the Kleenex box, and have yourself a merry little Christmas now.


  1. I'm learning that sometimes a good cry is worth all of the grit and determination in the world.

    I'm sorry Lori-Beth, these days suck. I always tell myself that tomorrow is another day.

  2. No wise words here I'm afraid, so sending a hug through the ether instead.

  3. Big hugs Lori-Beth...Christmas is a hard time for many people.

  4. I'm really sorry.

    I had a crappy weepy Sunday too, but today is better. I hope you'll feel better today too.

  5. I don't think these are the bad kinda tears.

    Many Christmas things make me weepy too.

    And sometimes July 4th fireworks (don't ask me why... although I think it has to do with the ideal of America and the reality)

  6. I miss the Karen Carpenter closing credits too. Now they use cheesy generic stuff to close the show. Just doesn't cut it for me. God that girl could sing. What a tragic loss. Merry Christmas nonetheless!

  7. Like you, I'm an emotional mess when it comes to Christmas and its traditions and stuff. I would have been the one passing you the Kleenex box the other day when you saw the route in the paper. I have longed for YEARS to go to the Toronto parade but alas, I've never made it. As a child, we always went to the parade back east, and when I moved to the capital, I started going to the parade here... even when I was single! I recruited friends and we went together, sharing hot chocolate after it was done. Things are different now of course. One day, I hope to go to the parade in the big city. I really do. And I'll need a Kleenex or two then, guaranteed.
    Nevertheless, I know it must have been a tough day for you. Thinking of you sweetie. Sending big hugs.

  8. I agree - sometimes a weep is good for the soul. It is like a little cleansing sometimes.

    I still have IF milestones and at the very least, they make me wistful for what never was.

    Here we watch the Macy's Day Parade in New York City on Thanksgiving. Being a little girl in a small mid-west town, NYC may as well have been Atlantis in the 'magical place I'll never get to visit' factor. I've never got to see the parade in person and it still takes my breath away a little.