Christmas in Lodi

The barn in winter

The barn in winter

When I was young my family used to travel from St. John’s, Newfoundland where we lived to Lodi, New York to celebrate Christmas with my Grandma. Thankfully we wouldn’t drive the 4 days to get there like we did in the summertime.

We had Christmas in Lodi in alternate years from celebrating Christmas in Toronto with my other set of grandparents. In Lodi we would celebrate with my Grandma and sometimes my uncle Floyd who would return to Lodi from his home in Boston.

Christmas in Lodi with Grandma and Floydie was lots of fun, of course, with the requisite fabulous meals, lots of presents and Grandma’s wonderful baking (with the aforementioned walnuts she would have dried over the fall).

As a kid I remember staring up at a seemingly gigantic overflowing pile of presents in the elegant front stairwell of the Lodi Home Farm where they would be stored in anticipation of being slid under the Christmas tree. It was a truly magical sight for a child.

Living in the country affords folks a more immediate connection with the Christmas tree than we have in the city. No stacks of trees in grocery store parking lots imported from Quebec or the Maritimes–no, sir. I remember the family trekking out into the woods on the Golding Farm property in Lodi with a rusty saw and a toboggan cut down a tree and haul back a “wild” Christmas tree. It was cold work that somehow seemed to get less festive with every passing moment that we were standing around arguing over the perfect tree.

The most exciting thing as a kid celebrating Christmas in Lodi was that Grandma’s rules applied for the Christmas tree. These rules included coloured lights (at our home white lights were the standard) lots of gold and silver swags of tinsel and individually applied strands of silver icicles.

Somehow the Lodi Christmas tree always seemed quintessentially “American” in contrast to our various trees at home in Canada: it celebrated excess, it was incredibly colourful and a bit brash. Our Canadian trees are always more reserved and understated in contrast. (I’m allowed to make these stereotypical tree decrees, being both Canadian and American myself).

Lodi is a great place for Christmas with the snow-covered trees, the crisp, winter country air and the years and years of great family memories built up in the Home Farm house over generations of Christmases celebrated there.

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On being far from home…

I’ve been missing Lodi the last few weeks after an intense spring and summer of work on the garden, the properties and of course visiting with friends and family. Now that I’m back into the city swing of things I feel far from the comfort of Lodi and the feelings of home.

I’ve never lived in Lodi though I consider it my home town as much as my real hometown, St. John’s Newfoundland where I was born and raised and Ottawa, my current home base. It’s a bit odd, but I guess in this scenario I’m always away from my Lodi home, which does make me feel nostalgic and wistful.

a Ford Fiesta like we used to have

a Ford Fiesta like we used to have

When I was little and for many years we used to drive from St. John’s to Lodi. Yes, drive. If you’re wondering what that was like, let me paint you a picture: a family of four + enough supplies for 2 summer months activities + a 1980s-era Ford fiesta (canary yellow). I know you’re picturing an overstuffed roof rack as well, and piles of baggage piled between the two children so they couldn’t possibly whack each other. Oh, and take that mental picture and stretch it over four travel days. Four days. Four people. Two ferries. One Ford Fiesta.

The Ambrose Shea

The Ambrose Shea

I remember loving those trips, though I’m sure I was miserable at some point if not for the entire four days. But certainly the highlights were the two ferry rides we had to take: one to get from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia which took 18 hours in those days. The other ferry took us from Nova Scotia to Maine and then we were in the home stretch. We used to take the sturdy and dependable Ambrose Shea to take us across the tumultuous Atlantic. The ferry was not glamourous but I loved it nonetheless. There was shuffleboard on the upper deck, James Bond movies in high rotation and a cafeteria that feautured endless combinations of things that could be smothered in gravy.

All of this travelling made the arrival in Lodi all the more sweet. We loved getting there but we loved being in Lodi for the whole summer much more. I’m much closer to Lodi now, only about 4.5 hours from Ottawa, but it still feels like a slog to get there. That feeling of arrival remains as sweet as ever.

Canadian and/or American?

Me and my American dad

Me and my American dad

So I am a dual citizen. I have citizenship in the U.S. and Canada. I hold passports for both countries. I was born in Canada, in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. But by virtue of my father being an American, I was born with the right to U.S. citizenship. In fact, the U.S. considers me a U.S. citizen born abroad. My brother is in the same boat. My mum is Canadian, my dad American and my brother and I are dual citizens.

This is a fact that I don’t neccessarly broadcast in Canada. I choose my audience carefully for sharing this fact as sometimes Canadians have thier minds full of those sterotypical ideas of what Americans are like. I’ve always found this a bit of challenge to negotiate because I am American, have American friends and family and none of them match those stereotypes we’re all too familiar with.

In the U.S. I’m clearly a Canadian. I say “a-boot” instead of “a-bowt”. I can’t help it, I say “eh?”–a lot, actually. Some of the Americans I’ve met over the years have had little or no knowledge about Canada. Over my years of being a Canadian in the US I’ve been lobbed questions such as “Do you have nail polish up there?”; “Oh, you guys have a capital city too?” Things like this make those sterotypes ring truer than I’d hope to be the case. And then there are the rare but wonderful Canuck-o-philes who are familiar with CBC radio hosts from the 80s, who are big Sloan fans or who know Junior A Hockey stats inside and out.

It was odd growing up in Newfoundland and having American roots. It was a pretty foreign concept to some of people I’d encounter whose families were Newfoundlanders 4 and 5 generations back. A lot of people I grew up with lived with thier grandparents (mine were thousands of miles away in Lodi and Toronto), hung out with thier cousins (I only have two and would see them twice a year) and had names like Noseworthy, Peddle, Parsons (mine was often mispronounced even though it sounds just like it’s spelled). I was caught between two worlds, in a way: in some ways I was a “Come-From-Away” even though I was born and raised in Newfoundlander.

I like to think that being raised in this unique situation I have the luxury of having the best of both worlds, cultures and traditions. Though it’s presented me with little challenges throughout my lifetime, it’s a fantastic asset, having two passports and two hometowns: Lodi and St. John’s–two places I love dearly.