It’s Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year!
The time of year when we think of family, hearth and home, the season of peace and goodwill, glad tidings to all men.
Like so many of you, I could write about a thousand Christmas memories.
Mine would be mostly good, some not so good, and one or two that are so spectacularly bad and, dare I say, laughable, that I wonder if I am actually imagining them.
Like the time when I was 19 and took my American GI boyfriend to visit my by-then-full-blown-alcoholic-dad at his dingy flat somewhere near Sutton.
I came down with the flu (first time) and spent the entire time lying on the couch shivering and coughing. My dad, very drunk for the duration, decided to take a swing at my boyfriend for no particular reason (he missed) and so my boyfriend spent his Christmas Eve down at the local pool hall which ended up with him having a punch up with the local lads, having dared beat them on their home turf.
Or of a happier time when my friends and I spent one Christmas Eve going on a massive pub crawl through the streets of Ipswich, where once I lived back in the day, and of being kissed by every bloke we ran into, mistletoe or not. We were full of Christmas cheer you understand.
Melding memories of Christmases from my childhood and those spent with my own children. Of living in America and wanting to bring a traditional British Christmas into my home and so making not only a Christmas pudding but a brandy-laced heavy fruit Christmas cake, beautifully decorated with royal icing adorned with a tiny plastic santa, snowman and reindeer to look like a snow scene.
Only to discover on Christmas morning as I staggered in to the kitchen to put the oven on in readiness for the turkey that an army of ants were devouring it. No great loss to my children, they didn’t like the darn cake anyway.
Of a cat from our distant past who loved nothing more than to strip the Christmas tree of all it’s ornaments as high as it could jump and one year managing to bring the entire tree down.
Let’s face it, cats (or at least kittens) and Christmas trees just don’t go together. Some years ago, when Maisy was much younger and naughtier, she got it into her head to scale the inside of our tree. There we were, oblivious to this as we sat on the sofa, when, without warning, the tree started swaying from side to side before a very spooked Maisy quite literally flew out from the middle of the tree looking like a flying squirrel, so huge and puffed out was her tail. I don’t know who was more shocked, us or her. We didn’t see her again for hours, days even…
We all hope for those Norman Rockwell moments at this time of year, yet for some Christmas polarises the expectation of a perfect family life as bitter resentments otherwise hidden lurk in the heart of an unhappy marriage all year-long and which are suddenly exposed, becoming like touch-paper needing only the merest spark to ignite them leaving a black, charred mess in its wake.
Certainly, Christmas sparked off some of the worst times between my ex-husband (EH) and I. Our last Christmas spent together in California saw us have the almightiest of rows over him eating some Christmas cookies which I had put aside for the children to decorate later. Sounds ridiculous now but of course it was never about the cookies…
Yet, I adore Christmas and always have! Some of my happiest early childhood memories are of Christmases spent with my mum, dad and brother together, snow falling gently outside, the coal fire burning in the grate, honeycomb paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling and beautifully wrapped presents around the Christmas tree. Not forgetting, however, the horrendous stomach-aches I would get from eating too many of those delicious cocktail onions at Granddad and Nana’s house on Boxing Day!
I was often asked over in America, what IS Boxing Day? I would answer that it is a national holiday, a traditional day for visiting those relatives who you were unable to spend Christmas Day with. In actual fact, it got it’s name not from the sport but from the days when tradesmen and servants received a gift from their employers which was known as the ‘Christmas Box’. Christmas in America always seemed to be incomplete without Boxing Day and it was at this time of year that I missed my family back ‘home’ the most.
So many sweet new memories to make then!
One in particular is the tradition that we started as a family of driving around our neighbourhood when it was dark to see all the magnificent Christmas light displays on everyone’s houses. I had never seen anything like it in England. They truly were magical and the kids loved this annual tradition, as did I!
Once, we found ourselves driving along a rather precariously winding, unlit road having taken a wrong turn. Suddenly, a deer jumped out in front of us. We stopped and stared at this beautiful creature as it stared back at us for an instance before darting off and of course, we told the kids that it was Rudolph.
From that moment on, every year we took the same precarious drive with the churning sea below us and the tall, wind-blown pines reaching up to the starlit sky by the side of us but we never saw Rudolph again.
Christmas sagas, we’ve all had them. For us, many seem to revolve around the ‘Christmas Tree’. The getting of, the setting up of, the decorating of. Last year we got a nice, cheap traditional tree. The needles started falling off immediately despite it standing in water. It was the classic Charlie Brown Christmas tree. By the time we took down the decorations, it looked like this:
Not a little ironically, the last Christmas Tree Saga that was the catalyst for more problems between EH and I happened the same year as the Christmas Cookie saga – that is, during the last Christmas I spent in America. Actually, it wasn’t so much about the tree but more about what happened after we got it.
Not many months before we had bought our very first brand new car, more like a truck really, a dark green Chevy Suburban. I loved it. I didn’t see a problem with putting the tree on the built-in roof racks to bring it home but EH insisted on us getting a trailer as he didn’t want to scratch the truck. As it turned out, he got much more than he bargained for.
On the morning that I had to return the trailer I simply forgot it was there. I put the car into reverse and backed out of our driveway as I had done a million times before to do the morning school run (rushing as usual) except that this time a sickening thud, both felt and heard, stopped me in my tracks. I hardly dared look in my wing mirror but as I did so I could see the jack-knifed trailer nicely embedded in the side of my brand new Suburban.
The entire panel had to be replaced and several weeks later I thought it looked good as new. EH, however, was not impressed.
Many years have passed since that time. I am so thankful for all the great blessings in my life. I still get to spend Christmas with my grown children and there are no arguments about cookies – yes, I still make them, every year – and the happiest of times spent together as a family far outweigh the crazy, wilder and yes, unhappy times. At least nobody could say it’s boring around here!
My life and the world in which I now live is far removed. Like the world that a certain baby was born into some two thousand years ago. I saw a cartoon in a paper last week. It was the classic nativity scene with baby Jesus, swaddled and sleeping in his crib but Mary, Joseph and the donkey were looking on with rather perplexed looks on their faces. That is because the three wise men were standing behind the babe posing for a selfie with a mobile phone.
It made me laugh, I just know that God has a sense of humour. He has to!
The world that Jesus was born into may as well have been another planet compared to the world that we live in today, yet the message which was given by the angel to this very lost world of ours back then remains the same as it ever was to us today.
‘And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’. Luke 2:10 King James Bible
So then, it is with this thought, and this image, that I leave you and wish you all, my dear friends, a very Happy Christmas filled with joy, love and peace and a New Year filled with every blessing so that wherever you are in the world and whoever you are with, that you are able to take some time out with your loved ones and ponder the true meaning of the season and so be filled with the joy, peace and hope for the future that comes with it.
This will be my last post until the new year (although I will do my best – and may fail – to dip in and out for the next couple of days here and there before signing off completely) so that I can spend as much time as possible with Hubby, my family and my chicks who are back in the nest for Christmas! I will miss you all but I look forward very much to catching up, fresh and ready to write, write and write some more in 2014!
As I always say, ‘Watch this space’!
Love Sherri x