As you move through life Christmas changes, morphs to fit the patch of life you currently graze upon. There’s the part when you are the child and Father Christmas is the man of the moment. Moving into the teenage years, when it’s completely about the new clothes, money and being bored around the relatives and then comes the pub and party phase where it’s all about your friends and your friends. You might like me, stop and graze here a while. Then it becomes about your first “do it yourself Christmas” with an important other half or maybe a new home. In time the journey might do a full circle and the whole event becomes about the little people again and Father Christmas and the magic once more dominate. Come with me and reminisce.
My earliest Christmas were spent in South Africa and although I don’t have that many vivid recollections I do however recall the last Christmas we spent there when I was Eight. We had inflatable boats for presents and although the rain was falling it was summer so we ventured out to the pool to play with our gifts, mine a canoe and my sisters a dinghy. Whether that day or on future days I remember many hours of fun with those inflatables, traversing from one end of the pool to the other in our imaginary world of delivering cargo, crossing rough seas and anchoring in safe ports around the world. Those were good Christmas presents. That was also the year that the painful truth was discovered, as through scrunched eyes and from behind a corner of my seventies flower power duvet, I watched my own father deliver the pillowcase full of gifts to the foot of my bed.
Back in England with all our much missed relatives Christmas became a family extravaganza like I’d never before known. There was always lots of socialising, drinks here and a quick visit somewhere else, then a meal in one household and a buffet in another. My Nana particularly would spoil my sister and me rotten and the mountain of gifts would create dizzy excitement. I would relish peeling back the sellotape, slowly revealing the wonder within and my sister would be by my side manically ripping her way through, frantic to see the enclosed. Those are the childhood Christmas’ I fondly remember. Glorious meals, gifts, games, laughter and the family tradition of Bampie (Grandad) slumped in the armchair, paper hat slopped across one eye, lightly snoring.
Just before I hit my twenties my parents separated and for a long time after that point Christmas lost its sparkle. There was always a guilt surrounding the day, the day that started to fill me with dread that I wanted to escape from because it wasn’t the same without him there. I know I wasn’t the only one who suffered this anxiety, it was written on the faces on all those in attendance but we struggled through pretending all was fine. The first Christmas he was gone I woke on Christmas day, in my bed, fully clothed including my boots, Christmas Eve had been wild. When I did speak to my dad I had to leave mid conversation to be sick. Later dressed in a new gifted crisp white shirt I tipped my Christmas dinner into my lap, cried and then had to spend the rest of the day in one of my Nana’s blouses as we didn’t happen to be at home. Funny now but as a slightly depressed hung-over twenty year old I wished the world would swallow me whole.
Things changed when Mr H and I finally got ourselves together for good. As I sat around the dinner table with my future in-laws and I lapped up the Christmas joy and family banter a warm seasonal glow returned to my heart. My enthusiasm for this festive time returned and as soon as we defined our relationship with a home together I was excited to make our own Christmas.
The first year I cooked a Turkey was a defining grown up moment. I wasn’t happy, it was dry. My mum, my grandpa, a friend plus Mr H were there to witness it. In that moment I was deeply disappointed and each year since when cooking the bird I still dread my heart plunging as it did that day. I got over it though and it still turned out to be a memorable time. Grandpa tried to pay for his dinner with the chocolate gold coins I’d used to decorate the table, bless his wonderful heart; it was all a bit much for him. We got a new cat called Ivan that turned out to be feisty and completely feral and disappeared up the chimney and under the kitchen units for hours on end. In the evenings Mr H and I would sit cuddled up on the sofa, drinking beer, eating chocolate and laughing at the Vicar of Dibley. Very happy times. We kept the cat but only because we could never catch him again
We followed cats to nurture with children, hopefully doing a slightly better job as neither of the boys has as yet been up the chimney. Our first Christmas with our boys was a magical one for Mr H and I, showering these fragile souls with more gifts than Santa could possibly fit in his sack. Looking back at the footage we filmed there is a look of dread in Tink’s eyes as he confronts the enormity of it all and I think we were opening presents for days because they just couldn’t cope with it all. Six years on there is now no fear of present opening, the magic is still here which I’m pleased, about at eight and nine years old and Christmas is very much anticipated with excitement and joy. Days away and I can now hardly wait for the fun to begin. As we weave our past experiences into our own family we create our own Christmas full of our own traditions and hopefully wonderful memories for the boys to remember in years to come.