I was teaching in Masset in 1972 and had not been with Mother and the family in Saskatchewan for Christmas in some three years. The big magnet of family was drawing me to them, as well as the need to flee from the rain, fog, and grayness of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The first chance after school was out I gathered my stuff together, checked to see if my reservations to Vancouver and thence to Saskatoon were in order, and then caught the rickety ex-school bus to Sandspit and jetted away to the Big Smoke and thence to the prairies.
Fine and dandy, so far, but no sooner had we landed than the fog settled in and all flights out of Vancouver were delayed. And, then cancelled until further notice. Along with dozens, nay hundreds, of disgruntled travellers, I camped in the passenger section of the airport all that night. And, all the next day, and all the next night. The weather system that had brought the fog was stagnant with no hint of change. Time was wasting before Christmas Day arrived and what to do? What to do?
I had a friend who lived in North Delta, not that far away from the airport. I phoned him to see if he could come and get me, which he did. At his place, his wife found me a razor, for all my luggage had disappeared into the bowels of the old Pacific Western Airlines baggage warehouse. After a shave and a shower, he drove me down to the train station where I was able to get a seat to Saskatoon. It was a long day and a half on the train, but at least I was moving.
At that time the CNR station was still situated in the centre of the Saskatoon so it was a short walk to a hotel and a good day and night’s sleep. By the time I awoke it was late in the day, cold as a banker’s heart and me with no warm winter clothes. By the time that problem was taken care of I had reserved a Volkwagen Superbug from Rent-a-Bug, but I couldn’t pick it up until very late that evening. As that was the case, I figured I would stay in the City that night, and then head out for Carrot River, some five hours away, very early in the morning.
And, so I did head out just as the gray dawn was breaking in the east. For some reason lost in the mists of time, I had not done any gift shopping. All my Masset purchases were in my lost luggage. The only stores open that Christmas morning were attached to gas stations. That is where I did my Christmas shopping. A box of chocolates here, a souvenir there, a toy somewhere else plastered with a gasoline company logo for a little niece or nephew.
As the miles, and the gas stations, zoomed by and I neared my mother’s place, the list was filled—not well filled, but filled nevertheless.
Mother was living in a seniors’ residence at that time. I drove the VW up to the parking lot and let myself into the complex. When I found myself at Mother’s unit I turned the doorknob and, lo and behold, the door swung open. There she was sitting in a chair by the sink, peeling potatoes in anticipation of the rest of the family’s arrival. I think she had given up on me, for the look she gave me was one that only a mother could give to wayward son, all full of love and relief that I had made it for Christmas with her.
After the holiday period I had to return to the Charlottes, and I almost did not go. But duty called and this time I had no trouble with fog or flights. Sometime towards the end of January my long lost luggage appeared at the school where I was teaching. There was no indication where it had been and I liked to think it had been flown to Singapore or Paris or Timbuktu. Or, maybe even Saskatoon.