Number One — It is possible to drive ALL the way to Fredericton from London in one day. We usually stop in Montreal at Kate and Pierre's house, but this time we knew they had Christmas company and we wanted to make it as far as we could so the second day's drive would be a shorter one. Our goal was Levis, PQ, just beyond Quebec City, but on Christmas night we found out there was a whopper of a storm heading up the east coast. We decided the best thing to do was to drive until we hit snow. This worked out great for the most of the day. Boxing Day = no traffic. Driving conditions were perfect. The kids were happy. We had a total of about 2.5 hours of stops for meals and bathroom breaks. So we soldiered on. We didn't encounter snow until Woodstock, NB (which, ironically, is about the same distance from Fredericton as Woodstock, ON is from London — we drove through Woodstock twice in one day!) We briefly flirted with the idea of stopping in Woodstock. It was 1:00 a.m. in NB, but only midnight according to our internal Eastern Time Zone clocks. The kids were both sleeping soundly behind us. We only had an hour to travel, and if we were to stop in Woodstock we would have that much further to go to Quispamsis the next day, and we may even be stuck in a hotel an extra night. We quickly cast aside the notion of stopping and headed down the Trans Canada Highway. It was awful. So many times we said to ourselves "We should have stopped in Woodstock". We could barely see the sides of the road, and I had visions of the travellers airlifted from Highway 402 just a few weeks before. But Chris is a wise and seasoned Maritime driver, and he knows how to drive in a snowstorm. He got us to our destination (Bliss and Doreen's house) safely at 2:30 a.m., a mere seventeen hours after setting out the previous morning.
Number Two — Christmas is not the best time for a quality visit to New Brunswick. Don't misunderstand me — I loved every minute of it, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with my family and dear friends. But time is just too short. We only had a week to visit, and since my family and Chris's family live in different cities, that time had to be divided into two 3.5 day visits. It wasn't enough. When I see my family and my friends in New Brunswick I want to settle in and enjoy some quality time.
We did manage to fit some quality visiting into that short few days. Tracy had the Finlay clan over for a visit. Nurnie was staying with Mom and Dad, so I got to spend some time with her. The kids had plenty of play time and four sleepovers with their cousins, Jill and Charlie (their all-time favourite people on earth!) They went swimming at the Aquatic Centre and went sliding at the awesome Quispamsis Rec Centre hill. We had a late Christmas dinner at my Mom and Dad's, which I appreciated so much. No turkey dinner tastes like Mom's turkey dinner! I had lunch with Shari and Julie and got caught up with them. We got a babysitter for the four kids and went out to dinner with Tracy and Blair and Mom and Dad. We saw Brad and Jody's newly finished basement, and got reaquainted with Hailey, who hasn't forgotten us after all! We managed to crash two New Year's Eve parties in Fredericton, at the Hansons and the Inmans, and shared some laughter with old friends. We had New Year's Day dinner with Bliss, Doreen, Justin, Natalie and Mariana, and learned a new favourite game while we were together (Ticket to Ride — it's awesome!). We went to FWC on Sunday morning and saw many dear friends there. We shared another turkey dinner with Nana on Sunday afternoon, and Chris hooked up a webcam for her so we can easily visit often face to face (We did this for my Mom and Dad, too. It has been wonderful to be able to visit this way from London!) Mark and Krista invited a whole gang of our friends over for an evening visit, so we had the opportunity to spend some time with many dearly loved friends. Monday was a bonus day, when we had planned to be travelling home but had learned that the weather would be better the next two days. So, Janelle spent the day with her BFF, Taylor, and Connor had an afternoon on Crocket Street with Joshua, Jordan and Seldon. I went to Heidi's for coffee and a cozy visit in her new home. On the way home, we stayed overnight with Kate and Pierre and Maddie and Remi, which is always a treat in the middle of a long trip.
We did pack a LOT into a week. But it wasn't enough. And by the end of it, we were pretty exhausted. We've decided that next year we'll probably stay in London for the Christmas holidays. After that we'll know which is worse: the mad rush of travelling at the holidays, or the loneliness of not travelling.
Number Three — Living this far away does not seriously alter close friendships and relationships with family. When we moved, one of my biggest worries was that my niece Hailey, who is two years old now, wouldn't know who I was, or who my kids were. When I went home this summer, she didn't know who I was, but over the course of our month long visit, we got to know each other. This time, it didn't take more than an evening to get reaquainted, and she was calling Connor and Janelle by name when we arrived. She has stayed aware of us through pictures. She is the same age Connor was when we moved to Kingston, and he never forgot his grandparents or aunts and uncles. Now that we have a webcam, we can have regular visits with Hailey, so hopefully next visit she'll be as comfortable with us as any other members of her family.
The night of the party at Mark and Krista's, my friend Amanda was one of the first ones I hugged, since I hadn't seen her yet on this trip. After we pulled out of our hug she said "I feel like I just saw you the other day!" It's true! My friendships with all those friends to whom I was closest have not changed. We can't get together as often as we used to, but with our lives as busy as they were, that was always an issue. I know eventually my friends will come visit me in London, and I will always get down for a summer visit, and with Facebook and email and telephones and this blog, staying in touch is easier than it has ever been before. I have moved away, but my friends are still there, and they are still my friends. And that made coming back to London much easier this time than it was in August.
Which brings me to Number Four — I am richly blessed with wonderful friendships, in New Brunswick and in London. Seeing my friends in Fredericton was wonderful, but for the first time I came back to London excited to see my new friends here! We have found a wonderful church and have met some great people there, and Jocelyn (who has been bringing me out of my shell since I was 14) is here and has connected me with a wonderful new friend, Tina. The three of us spent the morning together today, and I always feel so blessed by my visits with them. They make me feel truly loved and appreciated, and they are happy to share their precious babies with me once or twice a week, so I get my "baby fix". No one will ever replace my friends "back home", but I wouldn't trade these new friendships for anything either. I'm a lucky girl.