Christmas is a bittersweet time of year for me, and I’d imagine it is for anyone who is missing a loved one. For the first couple of years after Mum passed, I went abroad to ‘celebrate’ Christmas, I just couldn’t face being at home, going through the motions, so we did something completely different.
And it worked, of sorts. It broke traditions, and created new ones. And now, 11 years on, traditions are different again now that my eldest has moved on and won’t be celebrating Christmas with us this year. My Dad may be with his girlfriend, my brother with his family, and Dexter and I will be on our own.
Sufficient time has passed for me not to feel sad about Christmases past, and I can now look back at family Christmases when I was young, and when my children were young, with fondness and a huge smile.
(THIS IS A FAMILY SHOT FROM 2 YEARS AGO – I COULDN’T FIND AN OLDER PHOTO UNFORTUNATELY)
I remember one of the last Christmases we had when Mum was alive. She was the matriarch of the family, the type of person everyone was drawn to. The party thrower. The perfect gravy maker. The hug giver. The warmest person I’ve ever known. And so it made sense that every Christmas-time, most of our extended family would travel across the UK to spend Christmas day with us. Uncle Michael and my cousin Matthew from Surrey … maybe Uncle Ken and his family from Berkshire, my late Auntie Lynne from round the corner with my cousin Amanda, and my late Uncle Tony and his family from Macclesfield. So you see, Mum was like a magnet, drawing everyone together.
This one particular Christmas, there were about 15 of us, some of whom had travelled the night before to reach Kent. The younger men would sleep on random sofas, in the lounge and conservatory, or on spare beds or floors – the ‘elders’ got the beds. It would invariably be a late night as all the brothers and sisters of Mum’s family rarely got the chance to all be together, and so there was usually a lot of whiskey drunk on Christmas Eve.
I’d come round mid-morning the next day to open presents with everyone and then help Mum put crosses in the sprouts and make Bucks Fizz for everyone. By the time lunch came round, Mum was knackered and everyone else was slightly tipsy. I should have helped her more but she just always seemed so … capable. So very on top of things. She was never a complainer, never moaned, she was just one of those women who ‘got on’ with things. She’s the type of woman I’ve now become.
(ONE OF ONLY A FEW PHOTOS I HAVE OF ME WITH MUM AND DAD – THIS WAS ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO!)
The lounge/diner wasn’t big enough to seat us all so the dining room table had to be taken into the conservatory, along with the weirdest assortment of chairs you’ve ever seen. White, plastic patio chairs (x4), dining room chairs re-covered by Mum in navy fabric (x4), I think there must have even been an armchair or two added. The young kids were in highchairs or on a small, square childrens’ table, normally reserved for painting and sticking, now tagged onto the end of the main table.
It was cold in there, but we had an oil radiator that just about took the edge off the freezing temperature, but by the time everyone was seated, the warmth of our collective breath as we all chatted, quickly created condensation on the conservatory windows, enabling all the children to draw their names on them (as well as the grown-ups that never quite grew up.)
It was typical of lots of our Christmas get-togethers and my god, I miss them dreadfully. My heart aches when I think of those Christmases, but they also make me smile so much I could cry with happiness because I was just so, so lucky to be part of such a loving family. We were/are a family of huggers, and I still remember that feeling of being enveloped by various members of my family, so hard, I could barely breathe.
I was loved, and I loved them, and that’s what Christmas is about for me. It’s about loving those around you, whether they’re with you in person or not, and that’s what I’ll do this year. Dexter and I will be sat on (matching) dining room chairs, chairs I built myself a few years ago, sat at a wonky, white, dining room table that keeps coming loose, no matter how many times I tighten it. I’ll retire to my dove grey DFS sofa that I’ll have all to myself, and he’ll no doubt retire to his xBox.
But it will be wonderful in its own, unique way.
* This post is in conjunction with DFS but all thoughts are my own Visit their website to find out more about their great range of DFS Sofas.