The longest night of the year is behind us. The sun is rising. We are sitting by the log-fire swapping stories of Christmas’s past, Si’s and his sister’s childhood, drinking pots of tea, mainly to carry with it slabs of brandy-soaked Christmas cake.
We recount our holidays from a few years ago when Saagar had the pleasure (not) of dressing his first pheasant with the help of an aunt from the country. We all took turns at being beaten by him at table tennis. He looked gorgeous in a navy blue shirt and dark-rimmed spectacles. He had just been prescribed glasses. He was getting used to wearing them and I was getting used to seeing him wearing them.
Until he was 10, we religiously left a glass of wine and an orange for Santa on the mantle-piece above the fire place. He wrote a letter to him every year. I remember he always started with “Dear Santa and Mrs Santa, …” 🙂 We took pictures with him. We watched his films and we found him to be cool and cuddly.
That year his gift was wrapped in a deep blue paper with glittery stars and snow-flakes in various shapes and sizes. He found just what he wanted inside. He jumped up and down for a bit and then sat down, visibly thinking.
“I saw a roll of this identical wrapping paper in the corner of the boiler cup-board.” He said. I sat on the sofa, over-smiling, as though I had nothing to hide. The mechanics of his brain clicked away as he figured out how the roll might have got there. I made feeble counter arguments.
“Maybe he had too many things to carry so he left some here.”
“Maybe he wanted you to keep some of his favourite paper.”
“Maybe he has kept it for next year.”
“He left that paper there last year.”
He wasn’t fooled. That was the end of innocence.
Have a good one my darling, wherever you are. Lucky are the angels that are with you.
You are loved and cherished more than you know, Christmas or no Christmas.
Love you sweetheart! xxx
This time of the year is difficult for many families. Financial pressures, obligatory socialising with people whose affections may not be entirely genuine, a perceived time for evaluating various aspects of one’s life, overindulgence, having to revert back to traditional gender roles, the need for things to be just so…
Many women fear the festive period. Not a year goes by when there isn’t a seasonal rise in incidents of domestic violence reported to the police. Humberside Police Force reports that calls rose from 38% in the rest of the year to 54% in December 2015.
“For too many children across Ireland, being home at Christmas, is not a place of safety, warmth and happiness. It’s a place of fear, loneliness, pain and neglect,” said the ISPCC (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). On Christmas day more than 1000 calls were received by their 60 strong staff on Childline service from children reporting distress due to domestic violence and/or alcohol abuse.
Pangs of loneliness are more acutely felt by the elderly and floating populace at this time of the year. Age UK works steadily on reducing loneliness in the elderly, 1.2 million of whom suffer from it on a chronic basis. Their objective is : ‘No one should have no one on Christmas’.
For those of us who have recently lost a dear one, their physical absence is more visibly, painfully and deeply felt than other times. That one less present, that one less seat on the dinner table, that one less name on the card, that one less beaming smile, that one less hug …
It’s come back. Last 2 years we sat on a beach and pretended it wasn’t happening. We ignored Christmas. Overlooked it. Avoided it. This year, we are home. We are here to face it in all it’s glory and brutality, helplessly watching the abundance of ‘missing’ it precipitates. For many years I volunteered to work on Christmas as I believed it meant more to my colleagues who belong to the Christian faith than it did to me. With whatever time we had together as a family we enjoyed the social aspect of X-mas.
When Saagar was eleven, I wrapped his gift in a hurry and left the roll of wrapping paper in the ‘miscellaneous’ cup-board. When he saw the gift from Santa, he gave me a quizzical look, like a cocker spaniel and said, “But…”. That was the end of it. Although we laughed about it, the Santa story was blown away in that instant. As an adult he thought it was unfair on kids to be ‘lied to’ by their parents. We took different standpoints on matters of wonder, mystery, magic and innocence.
After much internal resistance over the last week, I finally installed a postmodern Christmas tree of white and silver twigs with pink fairy lights right in front of Saagar’s picture. Milkshake loved it and immediately took shelter underneath it. He hasn’t budged in 3 days except for short food and loo breaks. Last evening 3 of Saagar’s friends had dinner with us. I was reminded of how much fun we would have talking about absolutely inconsequential things (drivel) for hours! The fabulous combination of a sharp intellect and a great sense of fun was familiar. Laughter filled the house. American, South African, Indian and Australian accents appeared and disappeared. Stories of travels, girl-friends, dysfunctional families, Facebook pictures and safe-spaces were shared. Opinions on demands for transgender toilets and identity politics were expressed. Future plans were discussed. B showed off her new elephant tattoo and I proudly displayed my Saagar tattoo. Food was polished off. Time flew past.
Wonder what he would have looked like at 22. Wonder what he would have done after graduation. Wonder if he would have had a girl-friend. The ‘missing’ is awful but ‘what might have been’ is killing too.
It was happy and sad. We missed him. Our love for him and his for us brought us closer together. That is the new normal – joyful and tragic at the same time – 2 sides of the same coin.
(Christmas lights on Bond Street)
Christmas in London is spectacular. Most offices had a ‘Christmas jumper’ day. It was visible right from the morning commute. The young man sitting opposite me on the train wore a half sleeved, white cotton shirt, snowmen printed in a brown outline with a big red bow around their necks. Sweet. Made him look like a child playing grown-up.
As I walked into work, one of the girls appeared in a red jumper with ‘Great Baubles’ boldly printed in white right across her chest and 3 innocent little baubles drawn underneath.
The gym instructor adorned ‘DICKSOUTFORCHRISTMAS’. Bells, holly, mistletoe, reindeers, candy sticks, Santa, Christmas trees, stockings and sparkle scattered everywhere. Matching hats popped up too. Scarves flowed about. Red, green and white dominated. Ear-rings, bracelets, socks joined in. Faces carried similar themes on their eyes, eye-lids, lips and cheeks. Smiles spread across. Music jingled non-stop. Fizz popped. Glasses clinked.
The TV in the corner, quietly showed chafed lips, bitter winters, big clouds of dust, big machines, commotion, uprooted peoples, desimated towns, crying children…
Cinnamon and orange. Candles and gifts. Mulled wine and mince pie…