Friday, December 30, 2011

How to do Christmas

Christmas is over.

I can't say I'm not glad. It was something of a disjointed experience that lacked energy from the start. On several occasions and in general I didn't quite know what to do with myself, as if Christmas were a skill that I'd lost! I didn't know what presents to buy people, particularly those who I'm less close to. Latterly, from being on the other end of the deal, I've discovered that what one does is buy chocolates. With no particular relevance to any individual, how meaningful giving chocolates is, is up for debate but they always go down well, as did my home made mince pies which I gave to a couple of people.

Greater spending power would have made it easier to get enthusiastic about buying presents. It's the thought that counts, but money widens the selection and festivities are all about larging it up. Christmas is no time to be poor - not because money is important in itself, but because participation is important and this often costs money.

As well as larging it up, Christmas is about family. It was always going to be a tough nut to crack this year. I'd been away for 10 years so my mum's expectations of a family reunited would be high and my own memories of what Christmas should be would be hard to live up to. Christmas being about family only serves to underline their absence when they're not there, but I was not alone in being alone, my brother and sister both having recently gone through break ups. I could at least talk to Rosey on Christmas day.

My dad has been ill and is still lacking energy due to the TIA he suffered in October. On top of this, his twin brother has a heart condition that is at very least slowing him down a little. They have a history of doing things together! In light of this, the biennial boxing day trip to his house near Guildford seemed particularly low key. With his children long since flown the nest and having their own in-laws to visit on the second day of Christmas, it was just my uncle and aunt, an old family friend and the five of us (I have one brother and one sister). In the good old days when Christmas trees were twice my height and the holidays went on forever, there must have been at least 15 people around the twin tables of Guildford and Brighton. There are as yet no young ones to fill the spaces round the table, leaving my parents in the position of having reached seniority without managing to pass the baton on!

My great aunt, Aunty Nancy made it down from Tamworth, after an initial wobble. Not having seen her for two years, I like to think I had something to do with changing her mind! She was prevented from coming last year by the dramatic icy weather - she can manage long car journeys but at her age the possibility of being stuck on a frozen motorway miles from service stations, as many were, did not sound prudent. Fortunately, the weather was more mundane this year. It's a good thing we changed her mind. They say when you fall off your bicycle, you should get straight back on. Once you give something up, it's hard to start again (except cigarettes).

Aunty Nancy has been old since I was young, though she was never a very old old and back then she was younger than my parents are now. Old people are younger than they used to be as they get old older. She is now a fairly young 90, still living in her own home on two floors. She even still owns a 1970s mini and has driven it within the last year - though this is not to be encouraged. Where she fitted in to the generational mix was always slightly ambiguous due to being born half way between my mum's siblings and her brother, my grandfather but to think that I once considered 65 to be old seems remarkable. Good job if we're all going to be working until we're 70. My parents, hovering around 70, are verging on being elderly but I see them as just a little greyer than before.

So Christmas this year has been a reminder of several things. You have to make an effort. It is about participation and this is a two way street. It is not a good time for those who are excluded (I am not referring to myself here, but I can perhaps empathise a little with those with more serious problems). It has a lot to do with generations and like it or not, my parents and their siblings are now the senior generation with all the considerations that entails, though in my immediate family there is as yet not patter of tiny feet to rebalance the family. Where will Rosey and I fit into this as the first to get married, hopefully in some sense settle down and perhaps build a household with children?

Onwards to the New Year and another milestone, my parents' Ruby wedding anniversary (40 years) on New Year's Day.

1 comment:

  1. I found this post quite difficult to write in the sense of expressing my experience of Christmas, finessing my language to say what I wanted to say without saying too much or saying things that might be misinterpreted. I shall let others be the judge of how successful I was, but the sense I wanted to convey was that it was inevitable that it would feel a little peculiar for me in some respects, and that I would feel a little lonely, apart from my wife as I am. This wasn't helped by the fact that things were a little downscaled by my dad, my uncle and my aunt being ill. I do thoroughly look forward to next year though, when I shall be in better practice, my family will be fit and well, I'll be able to be a little more generous with presents and I'll be reunited with my wife. I look forward to good times ahead.


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