To understand the images in this coat of arms is to understand how Nicholas sees himself. The colour red signifies the military strength and magnanimity of a brave warrior. The jagged edged 'raguly' line surrounding the crest tells of difficulties encountered and fire means zealousness. Nicholas chose the English white rose because of his time living in England, but also because it signifies love and faith. Antlers denote strength and fortitude (they also give a Canadian flare). The maple leaf that contains the English cross tells Nick's story of growing up in Canada and England, while his sports teams are evident throughout. The Ottawa Senators vintage "O" logo appears front and centre directly below a banner with the words "You'll Never Walk Alone" - the song of the Liverpool Football Club.
But it was the snail that made me laugh and tear up all at once. The snail is the heraldic symbol of deliberation and perseverance - the qualities that define Nick and make him so admirably unique in today's world.
The other present that made family history this year was a scrapbook of favourite family recipes for Natalie. It seemed to me this year that our little girl was growing up and that perhaps she needed a bit of home as she prepares applications for graduate school and a more adult life after her first four years of college.
The book is divided into family holidays (cottage, Christmas and birthdays) as well as by people - each member of our family contributed their favourite recipe along with a memory. It all sounds a little bit precious and probably sentimental, but we had a marvellous time making this gift. And given that Natalie is studying material culture and contemporary anthropology, we knew it would appeal to her sense of imbuing objects with meanings to do with identity, history and emotion.
Tonight, we will all join with Joshua, an old family friend and now one of Nicholas' full-time carers. Josh is getting married this evening and as we wish him well for his future life, we will give thanks for the love in our family and for all of our blessings in 2012.
Happy New Year, everyone!