It’s Christmas Eve ~ and, to me, this will always be our day. I think it’s ever since you were more than happy to hand over the kitchen to me that Christmas when I was eighteen and wanting to have a go at cooking the whole Christmas Dinner myself.
I can’t remember much about how the dinner turned out but I still have vivid memories of you going off for a walk with Dad and Tiffin like as if you’d just been released from prison. Thing is I really appreciated the fact that you had faith in me ~ or, at least, pretended that you did.
The very best part of Christmas Eves after that was the way we’d chat in the kitchen while I peeled the vegetables. You seemed to find it hard to understand how anyone could actually like peeling potatoes, carrots and sprouts and I don’t think you realised how much it was to do with the company and the way I associated the whole thing with us being together. Nor do I think you realised how much I loved hearing about your Christmases when you were small. The bit that always caught my imagination was your description of Aunt Florrie arriving on Stephen’s Day with a big parcel of books specially chosen for you.
I’ve broken totally with tradition this year on the basis of your advice about ‘changing a losing game.’ Christmas just hasn’t been Christmas since you died in 2009 and has some pretty awful associations. Christmas Day 2009 was a miserable affair and it was the last day that Dad got up as normal. He wasn’t himself that day and didn’t even want Plum Pudding. I think it was a breaking point for him that you weren’t there and the idea that he was in bed for another ten months after that is almost impossible to comprehend.
I tried to stick with ‘tradition’ since he died in September 2010 but it’s been rough and this night last year was horrific as we ended up having to bring poor Sophie to the vet at all hours and it was obvious that her life was fast drawing to a close. I missed you and Dad so much as both of you understood more than anyone how much Sophie meant to me ~ and how losing a beloved dog brings absolute heartbreak.
So, I decided to draw a line in the sand this year and take a break from Christmas and pretty much everything to do with it, especially the cooking. I’d wondered if it was going to be a disaster but today has been brilliant so far.
Harry and I were out from daybreak to sunset with the dogs. The weather was divine; I went for a swim and he lay on the beach as if it was mid-Summer. We drove out along the Copper Coast to get every last ounce out of the setting sun and I couldn’t but notice how his hair was every bit as burnished gold as yours always was.
We’re tired now ~ that lovely outdoor tired ~ that I associate so much with long Summer days as a child.
Even though I’m not peeling sprouts, carrots and potatoes; making bread sauce and brandy butter and all the rest of it, I can feel the happiness of those evenings we shared as I write now.
Needless to say, I can still see the bags we always put at the end of our beds ~ my red straw one, especially ~ and it feels like Santa will be calling to Granny’s like he always did to collect our presents from her on his way to us. And remember that Christmas Eve night when we were coming home from Ballybay to Castleblayney when I was about five and we all saw Santa’s sleigh high up in the frosty sky. I still don’t understand that!
Yes, I am thinking Wordsworth: Happy days they were for all of us; for me it was a time of rapture!
All my love,