A car with a smashed windscreen, hotly pursued by a police car with sirens blaring, missed me by inches as it tore round the roundabout. I got home drenched from faffing about in the pond with the sick sturgeon and an unexpected appointment that meant assembling the wheelchair in the freezing downpour…which will teach me not to leave my coat at home. The front door key snapped in the lock and it was no easy task getting in through the back gate against which I’d piled all the bags of garden waste for recycling. The fence had blown down again, so I had to wrestle that back into some semblance of a barrier before letting Ani out into the garden. I finally managed a cuppa then got stuck into the Christmas Eve housework. The hand-wrung laundry had left a puddle on the carpet as it dripped. The vacuum threw in the towel… and threw out all the dust… as soon as I’d polished. Stressed? Me? It’s Christmas… and typical.
There had been a ray of sunshine though. I’d been obliged to pay a reluctant visit to the supermarket and was greeted by a small face wreathed in smiles; her Mum had the same idea… get in and out early before the late shoppers, to buy the breakfast we would share when my granddaughter had opened all her presents. Last year, she was the Christmas present… a grandchild I could cuddle and so tiny it seems incredible to see her now, when I have to chase her on all fours.
So, Christmas morning, sometime in the hours before dawn, I went out. There is something about the silence of Christmas morning that is unmistakable. The roads are empty, the world sleeps until its children wake, then instead of joining the rat race, families gather together around a tree. In that silence, I walked the dog, did dire things to the newly acquired turkey and got organised for a rather impromptu Christmas. Both my sons had asked after my mince pies with a mixture of desire and compliments, so by six o’clock I was elbow deep in flour. A little while later and armed with a batch of steaming mince pies, it was round the corner to my younger son’s home and the infectious smiles of a small, mischievous elf. You can’t help smiling around Hollie… she radiates joy… and the love in that little room was palpable. Watching my son watch his daughter makes my heart smile.
After that, I had an hour to get the rest of lunch prepared. Being a last minute decision… and only the two of us… it was an improvised meal, cobbled together with what I had scrounged from both our larders and the few things bought last minute, but somehow we ended up with the turkey and all the trimmings anyway. I collected Nick, and brought him home for Ani to jump on while I cooked, then we shared Christmas lunch and memories, with carols playing quietly in the background… and suddenly, putting up the tree made perfect sense. The afternoon was spent simply throwing tennis balls, while a laughing dog forcibly cuddled my smiling elder son. They have a special bond… it was Nick who cuddled her all the way home when she came to us and she seems to understand his physical limitations and treats him gently.
I had to smile though as I washed the dishes. I have been responsible for organising Christmas for longer than I care to think. There is so much planning and preparation, so much skimping and saving involved in providing all the traditional things like the piles of neatly wrapped gifts, the mountains of food and baking for the family gathering… Christmas has always been hard work, no matter how much you enjoy the results. The past couple of years have been rather different, with little or no planning, little shopping and much less work and hassle… it is now a far simpler, more laid back affair. But in the new, simpler version there are just as many smiles shared, just as much love and laughter. It has been an education… a real demonstration that the true spirit of Christmas doesn’t lie in the things we do or buy, and the best gifts are found in sharing warmth and smiles with those you love.