Christmas 2016

Written by  //  December 25, 2016  //  Nicholson musings and messages, Reports  //  No comments

Symbol of rituals dating from ancient, pagan times, the Christmas tree today is omnipresent in guises ranging from snow-covered natural pines – or in warmer climates, indigenous trees that bear no resemblance to the mythic Germanic originals – to pre-decorated fuchsia artificial trees (Horrors!), sold in big box stores What does not change is that each and every one is decorated in some fashion, with love and often quirky traditions (in our case, the activity must be accompanied by Wynton Marsalis playing Haydn’s Concerto for Trumpet & Orchestra).
We have always been aficionados of natural trees and lots of ornaments, some of which have been with us since our first Christmas together; and every year, we try to add something new.
This year, bowing to having attained a certain age and reluctance to do the necessary hauling and sweeping, we made an unpresidented move to an artificial tree – but a white birch, reminiscent of the beautiful ones Diana grew up with at our summer home in Charlevoix, although neither as large nor imposing.
Contemplating the tree and the ornaments that bedeck it, we realize that for us a Christmas tree of whatever species is a symbol of the vast network of friends who enrich our lives.
We see ourselves as the tree trunk. The branches, each with their own ornaments, are the individual clusters of family units, friends clustered by special interests, talents, professional or other connections from different phases of our lives. Some branches are in close proximity to one another, sometimes overlapping; sometimes they are only loosely connected to one another by the trunk, but together they form a whole that embellishes our tree.
Each ornament stands alone and emits a special glow that reflects the light from its neighbors. Some are large and cast their light widely, others smaller and more demure. Some are shiny and new; some wear the patina of years of being cherished. Some are slightly damaged. Some have disappeared. Some slip quietly from one branch to another.
Singly, they have glittering charms; together, they make a mighty statement about the power of friendship.
And so we salute the ornaments of our lives – our treasured friends, far and near, young and old. We do not put you away in a box at the end of this season; you are always with us, even when the lights appear to dim.
We may change the look of our Tree of Life, but never its ornaments.
Thank you for being one of them.
May you be blessed with comfort and joy in this season and throughout the year ahead.


2016 has been for us, as for many, a year of challenges.

We have lost several very dear, irreplaceable friends, including Kimon Valaskakis and Astri Reusch to cancer this year and the void is tangible.
David’s Alzheimer’s has mercifully progressed slowly, but it is a cruel disease. Sadly, the trial in which we participated did not have the hoped-for results, but we are fortunate to have wonderful care from our friend and internationally recognized expert, Dr. Howard Chertkow, and his colleagues at the Jewish General.
We are also so fortunate to be happily ensconced in our wonderful apartment at Haddon Hall, where we eagerly welcome visitors from far and near. Our Open Door policy never changes and the chiens de garde only ask to have their tummies tickled.

Diana has enjoyed a privileged time, working with dear friend Désirée McGraw on a range of communications issues for Pearson College UWC, of which Désirée is president and CEO. Happily, she also maintains her connection to the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation and her valued friendships with the amazing Sauvé Fellows around the world. She was particularly honored to be invited to the inauguration of the Jeanne Sauvé Salon at the Mount Royal Club. Mme Sauvé was the first woman member of that bastion of male privilege and Diana well remembers the days when female guests had to come through a side door and up narrow back stairs.

Marc, Jean, Maya and Bo are in Montreal for Christmas and  Whistler for New Year’s and a reunion with friends and family in B.C. Marc is hard at work preparing the opening of the 1880 Club in Singapore, which he claims is an outcome of his exposure to Wednesday Night. Jean has recently moved from the corporate world to the Singapore UWC as Chief Financial Officer. Maya, our rock-climbing champion, is happy at the Singapore American School, while Bo moves to UWC in January. Both have followed in their father’s footsteps and are deeply involved in theatre with Creations Singapore and Bo has recently become a celebrity minor chef (stay tuned for the TV show from Hong Kong).

Fiona is thriving in her role as Council Executive Director, Alberta & NWT of Scouts Canada and manages to slip into Montreal for a visit whenever she has a meeting with her Ottawa head office. She continues to be a formidable photographer. If you don’t already, follow her on Facebook.

Jeannette , our academic, is ultra-busy as Associate Professor in the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia, and continues her investigation of species at risk. Like Fiona, she has occasional meetings in Ottawa, always managing to slip in a visit to us.

Grandson Ryan, the mega-linguist of the family, maintained the family connection to UWC and spent happy weeks last summer at the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership.

Jamie Nicholson continues his work as a pioneer of the Vancouver fitness and health movement. He’s a Trainer of Fitness Leaders and led the wave of people teaching Power Yoga in Vancouver. We have had too-infrequent visits from Jamie, but follow him avidly on Facebook, especially during his first-ever trip to Paris last fall. It was such fun to watch the rapid development of his love affair with the City of Lights.

So all is good, though we are united in our despair over the state of the world, in particular the outcome of the U.S. elections, and deeply fearful of what 2017 may bring. Let us hope and pray that a new group of leaders will arise to lead the world away from the divisive policies of the extreme Right and Left towards a moderate centrist governance. Peace seems an unattainable goal, but we shall continue to pray for it. And, if it’s not too much to ask, a restoration of at least a modicum of good taste in Washington.

We send you our love, our warmest wishes for success in your personal and professional endeavors, and a joyous forthcoming year.

Diana & David

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