It’s so loaded, Christmas – with traditions, memories, nostalgia. More than any other time of year, it’s a time to remember what you were doing at the same time previous years, and that’s not always a good thing. The last three years Christmas has been a time when every little ritual – from the lighting of candles, the sound of carol singing, the musty-but-festive smell of the decorations when you open up the box from the loft – has brought a lump to my throat. There’s been times when I’ve bolted out of the house for a long solitary walk to have the chance to cry in peace about the people and places I won’t be visiting this Christmas.
This year though …. it almost feels like the storms have passed and a glimmer of sunlight is on the horizon. The habits our little family unit has developed over the last few years are now starting to feel like proper Christmas traditions, with a strength and significance of their own – not just stuff that we do to try and fill the empty space. If I was being a bit Dickensian, it’s as if the Spirit of Christmas Present feels stronger now than the ghosts of Christmas Past.
That’s not to say I haven’t had the occasional moment. But instead of being overwhelmed with sadness when I least expected it, this year it feels more like the sadness is something which I know is there, which I can choose to pick up and look at, focus on for a while, then put it carefully back in its place. That’s what happened just a few days ago while we were decorating the Christmas tree. The children had wandered off, and I was alone for a few minutes, hanging some old glass baubles on the tree to the sound of Silent Night on my Christmas carols CD. I let myself drift back, into the scratched and faded purples, reds and blues, to long ago rooms with the smell of cigarette smoke, Holly Hobby dolls wrapped in cheap shiny paper, Alpine lemonade in crinkly glasses and the hot glow of the gas fire on your face. For a few minutes I was back there, just letting myself remember not just those tangible things but the intangible feeling of being loved and cared for, the feeling of being home.
I snapped back into 2015 reality when Silent Night ended, and haven’t felt the need to revisit these happy-sad memories. But I have a feeling that this is part of what it means to be a parent – knowing that it’s no longer anyone else’s role to create comforting family rituals and a feeling of home for me. It’s up to me now, to build that safe and secure world for two little people. Which is kind of terrifying, but I think I’m figuring out how to do it.
So this year I’m not saying a hollow ‘happy Christmas’ to everyone, as I know for some people this time of year is anything but. If you’re not having a great time this Christmas, I wish you strength to get through the next few days, and many happier Christmases in the years ahead xxx