Life is good!
Over the past few years our family has had 'interesting times' at Christmas. Variously a cancer diagnosis, fallout from a heart valve replacement, a broken neck etc, with one or the other of my parents in hospital just before the holidays, once even coming out of hospital unexpectedly - and thankfully - on Christmas Eve evening. This year we've broken the hospital tradition. Oh, we haven't escaped completely unscathed, my brother developed shingles in one eye a couple of days before Christmas - and he was the one taking over the Christmas cooking because I'm dangerous round a baking pan of goose fat and saucepans of boiling water because of neck, back and arm problems at the moment! He was an absolute Trojan though, producing a brilliant meal with all the trimmings despite feeling unwell himself. This time I played cook's assistant doing the washing-up and other drudgery as best possible, and heroically keeping my mouth shut (most of the time) when I thought he wasn't doing it right - in other words, the way I would do it!
I can't remember the last time I haven't spent most of Christmas Day in the kitchen. It was a real treat to be able to spend more time with the family, laughing, relaxing, concentrating on keeping the fire stoked and dressing the table. One of my great pleasures is dressing the table because one of my parents' and my grandmother's great pleasures is seeing a well-dressed table. This year I could take my time, I didn't forget anything; the Christmas tablecloth we've had for years, the candlesticks my brother and I bought for our parents many years ago with tall, dark red candles, the little stockings with a chocolate 'wish' in each place setting, the fine cut glass wine goblets that only come out on special occasions. And the tree! I could take my time decorating it, enjoying each bauble as it emerged from storage, showing it to my mother and remembering when we got each one before we put it on the tree; the ones I sent back from my Alaskan trip for my mother, the ones received as a present from a Scandinavian friend, the one my brother made out of the remains of a cracker one year over coffee after the Christmas lunch, the one mum and dad have had since they first got married coming up for sixty years ago. And the miniature tree crackers minus the one I insisted on pulling as a child many years ago because I wanted to see what was in it - I was convinced I was missing out on something and it was the only way mum could prove to me they were only decorations!
To make things easier this year we had decided not to buy lots of presents, we each contributed what we could afford to one present each. Mum got her hearing aids, my grandmother a worktop freezer, my brother a flat screen TV and I'll be getting a greenhouse when the weather sorts itself out enough to erect it. My dad got a subscription to HD TV channels (I think that's it, my brother sorted it because the rest of us are dunces in the world of technology) and time with his family because there was nothing else he wanted. And that was the key!
Yes, there were stockings filled with satsumas, nuts, chocolate Father Christmas, sugar mouse, new flannel, that sort of thing but not presents as such. The key was we were all together, spending time together, laughing together, reminiscing together. We were all doing things we knew the others would like, would give them pleasure and in doing so we were giving ourselves pleasure and making memories for ourselves for the future.
Yesterday we had friends round for a get-together and enjoyed being in the company of people we were comfortable with. Today, the day after Boxing Day, the house is quiet. My dad is sitting in front of the log fire content to look at the frost and snow outside from the comfortable depths of his armchair, mum's in her room taking a nap, my brother's taking some time for himself and I've time to do whatever I want. I'm feeling happy, contented and enjoying the gentle intimacy of family life.
So...life is good!
To everyone reading this blog, I hope you made good future memories for yourselves this Christmas and I wish you a happy New Year.