Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A Bittersweet Christmas

So, how was it for you? Did everything go to plan? Was the turkey ready on time? Did the big man in the red suit remember to call?

I hope you had a wonderful day filled with love, joy and laughter. And the odd present or two. And perhaps a touch of alcohol here and there.

My Eric Carle calendar has served me beautifully and I have truly loved opening
a little door each day. I took it down today and - phew! - it re-folded and is
ready for use again in 2018

The title of this post is perhaps a little misleading, as my Christmas - our Christmas - has been a good one really. The run-up to the big day was relatively smooth: I managed to get my backside in gear fairly early on and, unlike most years, I wasn't on the last minute with either my present buying or my present wrapping. In fact, I had a spreadsheet this year - get me! I had a detailed list of who was getting what for whom, who owed what to whom, and when and where it was ordered from. I know it's a little dull but do you know what? It saved me a lot of hassle and stress as I knew everything was written down and I didn't need to worry about remembering it all.  List-making runs in our family: Dad was a big list maker, and by big I mean BIG.  It was a running joke really - he had lists of lists. He listed all his musical collection, for example, by title, by artist, and also by genre. I'm not quite as bad as that, but I do appreciate a good list.

The Boy's sticker collage, made on Christmas Eve.
This one is definitely going in his memory box...

The kids finished school the day after the Boy's birthday, just a couple of days before Christmas itself, which was handy in that we didn't have days and days to keep them amused as they got themselves overly excited in anticipation of the main event.

And as we were being entertained this Christmas Day, rather than being the ones doing the entertaining, we had little to no stress about food purchase or preparation.

The dog was so pooped that he fell asleep among the presents

The day itself was really, really good fun.  We had Christmas morning chez Comfy Marmalade, as always - just the four of us, and the dog. The kids were asked not to come downstairs until 7am and to play in their rooms if they woke any earlier. Fat chance of this working, I though. But as it goes, neither woke up much before their 7am curfew - result! They both got some of what they asked for, but not all.  In our house, Father Christmas is generous but does not over-do things.  Money is not the issue, it's just that we choose to give the kids well-chosen presents, along with some smaller items for their stockings and some lovely gifts bought by generous friends and family, and they're both mightily happy with their stash.  I'm still looking at their piles of goodies and wondering where on earth we're going to put it all though!

I think he liked his wished for dragon costume!

We had a light lunch and then trundled over to my sister's house, about 20 minutes away.  Technically we were due to have Christmas at our house, as it was my sister's turn to see her in-laws, but this is the first Christmas without our Dad, and neither of us could imagine not being together this year.

And this is where the bittersweet bit comes in.  Despite the run up to Christmas and the day itself going almost without a hitch, and despite it being, ironically, one of the most fun Christmas Days I've had in a long time, I just haven't been able to shake Dad from my mind. It's that haunting sense of loss and grief which rears its ugly head from time to time, particularly on special occasions and all the 'firsts' during these initial twelve months. The kids have been a great distraction, of course, and I've had plenty to keep me busy and occupied. But it tends to be at times of solitude, or when one of Dad's favourite festive tunes comes on the radio, or when something happens to remind me of him, that it's hard not to let the grief become all-consuming.

My thoughtful sister bought me this amazing star decoration from Modo Creative for our tree.
Simple and beautiful.

And one of the nicest things anyone has ever bought me.
I will absolutely treasure it. Thanks, sis

Dad WAS Christmas for us. As a young child and without a mother around, he was our focus during our family festivities.  As we got older and moved away from home, we always returned for Christmases at Dad's house.  And as we started families of our own, Dad was an integral part of our celebrations.  And he loved Christmas - he adored his grandchildren and revelled in seeing the magic come alive again in them, the next generation.  He hosted the whole family on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, putting on a huge spread complete with crackers, silly games, festive music and much fun. In truth, I've been dreading this Christmas as I just couldn't imagine it happening without him being here.  Like I say, he was Christmas personified to me…

So, to keep myself sane I've had a good cry from time to time, always in private, and I've tried my best to keep him near, but a little removed from my thoughts.  And do you know what? It has worked, overall. Christmas Day was fun. Really good fun. The kids had a ball, and my sister and her beautiful family - bless their sweet hearts - had pulled out all the stops to make the day as special as possible.  We had crackers, we had a massive amount of food and drink, we had silly games. We danced. We let the kids watch more TV than usual, but what the heck.


And Dad was with us, in a way - we toasted his memory, we used items from his home such as his festive cheeseboard, and my sister and I had a little hug and shed a few tears. But only a few. Dad would have told us to pull ourselves together and get on with things. Which is exactly what we did…

Boxing Day, this morning, dawned gloomy, with rain, sleet and hail. But by lunchtime the weather had brightened sufficiently for us to venture out as a foursome, dog in tow, for a good wander.  The kids complained initially, of course, but soon got into the swing of things, and we had a lovely hour getting muddy and having fun.

Poohsticks were played, but the river ran so fast that we couldn't decide who won!  Upon return we had warming drinks - hot chocolate with all the trimmings for the Girl, warm cordial for the Boy - and a film.  I managed to get some reasonably good photos on the walk - even in the depths of winter there's colour and much beauty to be found…

The next few days will be spent visiting friends and family, perhaps a little shopping with some of the Boy's birthday money, and various other activities which will be fun but which won't break the bank.  And then of course we have New Year, but I'm always maudlin about that so it's perhaps best that we just brush over that one!

I hope that these festive holidays have provided you with lots of fun and pleasure, that however you choose to celebrate New Year (partying / in front of the TV / in the land of Nod) you enjoy yourself, and that 2018 brings you good health, happiness and contentment!

Bye for now xx

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