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We aren’t a religious family. The Christmas we celebrate is the Hallmark variety…or the Hallmark variety gone terribly, terribly wrong. But I, at least, having attended church as a youngster, know just enough about the Christian tradition to refer to it when necessary. I know, for instance, that the birth of Jesus (the lynchpin of Christianity) is sometimes referred to as ‘the Christmas Miracle’.

This year, everywhere we looked there were Christmas Miracles. While it’s true that they weren’t of the earth-shattering variety, still, you take what you can get.

The first miracle was that Dad, our oldest canary and the patriarch of our collection of canaries, has risen from the dead several days in a row during this Christmas holiday season. Before Gill flew home, she kept mentioning that she was looking forward to seeing Dad. I didn’t have the heart to bring her down by telling her that Dad was on his last wings. Each day I trundled him into the bathroom for a ‘schvitz’ (a steam) to keep him warm. It worked. Through the course of the day, he perked up — enough to eat, bathe and fly from the bottom of his cage to his top perches. Since birds’ body temperatures are warm (104 degrees), and since this is in the outside world a tropical bird, it helps him to be in the spa-like environment of the bathroom. I turn the shower on full and fill up the tub with hot water for Dad’s ‘cure’.

Dad was still alive upon Gill’s arrival. She was thrilled to see him. But the jig was up — she could see he was very tired and old and was struggling. Each night we’d cover Dad’s cage with towels to keep him warm and let him enjoy the moist room. Each morning, it was with trepidation that I’d enter the bathroom, remove the towels and peer it. Then the cry went up throughout the house: “Dad is still with us. It’s a Christmas miracle!” If we were true believers, we’d have sung Hallelujah …but that would be pushing it for this atheistic lot. Still, we were grateful that Dad had survived yet another night. He was, if I recall my Bible stories, like Lazarus risen from the dead. Or, I suppose, it could have been Christ rising from the dead — except that was Easter, totally the wrong holiday. The only similarity is that both celebrations involve chocolate.

The Christmas Miracles didn’t stop there. The day after Gill’s arrival, we went shopping at a fancy outlet mall. Within the space of two short hours, Gill had purchased her entire year’s wardrobe — a true miracle that NEVER happens when we shop together. Usually all we get is cranky, tired, and burdened down with ridiculous purchases that have to be returned the next week. And Gill got us home (after freeway driving) safely…she hasn’t driven since summer so this was her initial practice session.

And on Christmas Eve, we received a text from Crazy D. He was in the Virgin Islands with his girlfriend for the week. (She was there working; he, vacationing.)We had been crushed when he couldn’t be with us for Christmas (and possibly a bit miffed that he couldn’t arrange to be here to see Gill who’d made the effort to fly from England to see her family). His terse text announced that he was flying home on Christmas Day. It seems there had been a crisis of some kind and he would be needing a pickup from Pearson airport at 4 on Christmas Day. What sort of crisis, we wondered? Hopefully it wasn’t a breakup. And although we love him dearly and were thrilled that he’d be home for Christmas dinner, nobody was thrilled enough to do that drive. My Christmas gift to Crazy D was an Airport Transit car to pick him up and deposit him in our living room.

He was like the Conquering Hero when he showed up at 6 p.m., just in time for turkey! It was, for us, the biggest Christmas Miracle. (We didn’t know until a bit later that someone had to fall 30 feet off a cliff to trigger the series of events that resulted in his arrival here. Crazy D is usually the one falling off cliffs and injuring himself so that was a different twist.) This was actually a double miracle — the woman survived the fall and Crazy D had Christmas with us.

Of course, with Crazy D in situ, our sleeping situation got tighter. Gill kindly offered to sleep on a couch so Crazy D could have her bed. (He was exhausted after traveling all day and dealing with the stress of the cliff incident.) He took one look at her, listened to her terrible cough (courtesy of Air Canada and the germs in the plane from England) and announced:”Thanks but no thanks. I’m not sleeping in your germ-ridden bed! Keep your diseases to yourself!” With that, I offered him a bed at my boyfriend’s place around the corner. And yes, I did have the courtesy to phone him and let him know that, although he wasn’t at home, he’d be having company! It was our family’s version of the ‘no room at the inn’ scenario. Chalk up another Christmas Miracle…

The last miracle was Gill’s sighting of  a familiar character in our neighborhood. He is an aging man, a victim of a long-ago stroke, who is famous for his everyday walks around the area. His crippled gait is unmistakable but he usually returns to his native India for the winter. Everyone in the neighborhood knows and loves Jake and, despite his inability to speak properly, we all carry on robust ‘conversations’ with him, using many gestures, pointing and facial expressions. Gill came charging in from her own walk shortly after her arrival here and screamed: “I just had a Jake sighting! I’m so happy to see him. But shouldn’t he be in Mumbai by now? It’s another Christmas Miracle!”

As of now, a mere few days into Gill’s holiday with us, I feel certain we have used up our quotient of Christmas Miracles…except that, as I write this, we are awaiting Crazy D’s arrival to go snowshoeing with Gill. As usual, he’s late. It may be that the snowy drive is making the driving difficult, but he’s rarely on time. If he makes it before lunch, that will clock in as our final miracle.