“Are you all ready for Christmas?” The middle-aged shop assistant in pixie ears and elf costume smiles brightly as she puts the dog’s dinner into my bag.
“I haven’t started.” Disbelief and pity vie for supremacy on her face as she takes the money. She cannot understand how anyone can leave all that shopping till Christmas Eve. She’d probably understand even less if she realised I wasn’t planning on doing any. Granted, my statement does not reflect quite the whole truth. I’ve already had Christmas. There was no turkey, it wouldn’t have mattered had there been no tree and the best present was being present.
I’m not going all “bah, humbug!” and ignoring the festivities… which would be a little difficult when half the houses in town are sporting an array of flashing lights that must be visible from space. No, I’ve put the tree up and bought a few small gifts and made a couple of others. But Christmas will be fairly laid back. I might even get to watch a film. In peace. And without having to cook halfway through.
In fact, left to my own devices, it would probably have been beans on toast and a mince pie, but I’m cooking for one son at lunchtime and having breakfast with the other… and after that, it’s feet-up. Unless the weather improves, then Ani and I might go somewhere special for a long walk. Or just snuggle.
When I was younger, it went without saying that we gathered at my mother’s table, several generations of family, to share the day. That changed as the children got older and had plans of their own… so mornings would be ‘doing the rounds’ of the elderly relatives. It changed again when the boys left home and will doubtless change yet further until anything I envisaged as a traditional family Christmas is as insubstantial as the ghost of Christmas past. What it leaves in its wake, however, is not the gaping hole I once feared, but a space for possibility. I could, if I wanted, go away for Christmas one of these years. Or not get dressed. Or paint all day. Or all of those at once if I choose!
I am glad I was blessed with children with whom to share the small joys and wonder of Christmas. I wouldn’t have missed for the world the ‘traditions’ that grew and changed each year, the madness of present buying and the industrial-strength baking of mince pies and cakes. I wouldn’t have missed hearing one son sing soprano in the choir or watching them both play various parts in the school nativities over the years. I am grateful for the chance to have seen their Christmas-morning faces, when reality takes a back seat and there is nothing but magic in their world.
These are memories that are with me always, not just at Christmas, but every day and their beauty lies in the love that lies behind both the effort and the smiles.
But I have to say… the prospect of a relatively restful Christmas sounds lovely! Now, I may
need choose to bake those mince pies… 🙂