Christmas Eve is a day that bursts at the seams with activity, anticipation, emotion, memories … the lot. It reminds me in so many ways of my vision of Santa’s sacks that are so full that you catch fleeting glimpses of teddy bear eyes, corners that reveal those longed-for train sets, Lego, poster paints, Christmas annuals, Chemistry sets, Tennis Magazines, especially ones with my hero, John Newcombe!
It was always a day of mixed emotion in our house as Dad’s father died on Christmas Eve in the 1940s and he always had a pensiveness about him that we expected and respected.
A Christmas Eve night that stays etched in my memory is one in the 1960s when we lived in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan. We were travelling home from Ballybay to Castleblayney after visiting friends there and we all saw a colourful sleigh travelling at high speed across the sky. It was a clear night and that vision is as clear today as it was that night as I sat in the middle of the back seat of Dad’s Morris Minor with the people I loved best in the whole world.
Then there was the Christmas Eve of the ‘dictionary debacle’ when we kids were all still single and gathering at home for Christmas for one of the last times. We were wrapping our presents, Christmas paper and sellotape everywhere. It was like a game of Snap when my brother and sister realised that they had both bought a dictionary for Mother. A big debate ensued about the respective merits of the Cambridge and Oxford English dictionaries. The Cambridge Dictionary won, on the grounds really that it was a bigger tome and had a lovely red cover. Mediation was required and I found myself, as the baby of the family, in a most unfamiliar role. The outcome of it all was that I ended up with the poshest Oxford English Dictionary. I can’t remember now what I had to hand over in exchange! That dictionary is still serving me well!
There was also the Christmas Eve in 2003 when I stayed up very late writing that Thank You letter to Father which has been such a source of solace to me, especially since he died in 2010. Hard to believe ten years have elapsed since I penned what I think was the most important letter of my life so far. http://wp.me/p1ip9d-WK
This morning I found myself singing along to Jingle Bells on the radio as I made some mental notes about excavating the dining-room table out from under the overflowing mountain of washing. Amazing how such ‘jobs’ become joyous on Christmas Eve!
Best get cracking!