The countdown was on and Christmas was creeping up. With one week left to go we finally got the tree decorated. Not that we had any presents to put under it this year. Things being what they are at the moment we decided that we didn't need any gifts, we already had what was really important.
We have had the blessing of finding a wonderful property that will serve us well as we begin to build the gardens up, add a chicken coop and garage and barn...oh boy...that's all going to take a few years. Baby steps! We also had the blessing of being warmly welcomed into this community with neighbours that have pulled us into the fold and made us feel like family. The blessing of discovering a sweet little country church thanks to some of those neighbours, and rediscovering a feeling of being part of something bigger than our own little world. We have been blessed to have Kevin spending time with us when not in school, a real treat after all the years of just scant short weekends twice a month. And of course, we have each other. Something we celebrated when our 4th anniversary rolled around on December 9th.
We did however, still keep Kevin in mind for a Christmas gift. But being the lad that he is, he didn't seem to want anything. And so, we gifted him with an evening out to a nice dinner at Churchill Arms in Charlottetown. A lovely little British pub style place with an amazing Butter Chicken dish that was once featured on the Food Network. And then it was off to the movies to see the new Hobbit movie in 3D. Pretty good movie! Although, it's a little disturbing to see close up of Orcs in 3D...yikes! The next day he was on a plane heading home to spend Christmas with the rest of his relatives.
As we watched him pass through the security gate we realized it was going to be a very quiet Christmas this year with just the two of us. Or so we thought! First there was an invite to neighbours for a light afternoon snack before heading over to the church for Christmas Eve services. As we came out of the church, the snow was falling in large, fluffy flakes, the bells chiming from the top of the church, the moon throwing a beautiful glow over the winter scene...it was all quite magical. When we got home, there we found the best Christmas present ever in the tree perched among the decorations; a handmade card from Kevin with some heartfelt words that touched us both so deeply it brought tears to our eyes. Somehow he managed to still be there in some form and we felt truly blessed and loved. Who needs the shiny wrapping paper and tinsel bows?
Christmas Day we were off to visit friends who invited us to a Christmas dinner party that featured the best prime rib I've had in a long time, along with the wonderful laughter and company of good people. We came to this island alone, but just as we have been warmly received in our community, we have been blessed to be able to forge some wonderful new friendships here with people that are caring and supportive. In just half a year we have built a solid foundation on which to build our lives. Our pre-move preparations went so well, everything falling into place as though it was all meant to be. We moved into the house and then things seemed to pause. But we know it's just a temporary holding pattern as we find our way.
When talking to people elsewhere and I mention that I have moved to PEI the common response I get is 'Oh! Living the dream!' Ah yes, the dream. It certainly is that. Visitors see the wonderful beaches, the lush scenery and quaint fishing villages. It really does look like a postcard. Living here year round isn't quite as romantic though. Don't get me wrong...we have no regrets! At least not yet. But, as beautiful as this place is, it isn't all roses. This island is suffering economically more than any other province. There is twice as many people trying to leave and find a better life elsewhere as there are people coming to stay. Employment is a major issue. What jobs there are here, are grossly underpaid compared to other provinces. An incredible number of people commute to Alberta for work, where they can pull in high wages to pay for their lives here. We have a provincial government that seems to have a huge disconnect with what the majority of their constituents' need or how to boost this economy. We came here because property here was affordable, but it's affordable because people are trying to sell so they can leave. So many abandoned homes. It's a little sad. But there is a spirit here of community and determination under all of that. There are those that refuse to give up, that continue to contribute to their community, to support their neighbours. There are fundraising Ceilidhs to raise money when someone in the community is ill and needs help with medical expenses, or for someone who has lost a home to fire. People band together and help each other in ways that put a lot of big cities elsewhere to shame. Somewhere under the despair and negativity that sometimes creeps into conversations and media, there is love. And so, as we struggle with our finances as so many here do, we still see so much to be thankful for. And we still have our dreams. It might take a little more work than we planned to get the dream fulfilled but we can see it on the horizon.
Armed with our dreams and hopes for the future, we are going to meet the new year with as much positive attitude as we can muster. We hope everyone had a Christmas that left them feeling loved, because all the money in the world can't buy that. And we wish for everyone a New Year filled with prosperity and health.