A Christmas miracle

29 Dec

Unlike a birthday gathering organised for oneself – always for me “I think I’m going to celebrate alone to save the embarrassment of being the only one who turns up to the party” – I can’t play the solitude card at Christmas. If I were living child-free on my own I could probably board a plane bound for India and say to hell with it, but I have family so I’m duty bound. Holidays with small children, festive or otherwise, at home or away, always spell out a period of more work and more drinking.

Despite my reservations – and I’ve had a few disasters in the past to warrant feelings of anxiety – Christmas Day this year was a blast. I was with good people and we drank, laughed at my husband’s bad impression of Paul Simon and set the Christmas pudding on fire. There were no fights, the children were sweet and I didn’t have to feign delight when I opened my presents because they were all useful or edible (my poor friend has to make enthusiastic noises for ages every year as she opens up parcels of clothes from her mother-in-law that would make a frump of Giselle.)

Boxing Day at my sister’s place was great too, a different dynamic than the previous day because chaos from my side of the family ruled out any chance of order – but it felt like home. So  far so good, perhaps because the less palatable members of my family were either absent (my alcoholic, six-stone neurotic aunt, who ‘tests’ the dishes before they are put out by wetting her finger, sticking it into the food and then licking the residue off in laps, much like a ravenous cat), or dead (my grandfather on my father’s side used to drink an entire bottle of whisky he’d bought as a present, then call my mother a “fucking bitch” for no reason under his breath.)

The more selfish members were playing good cop for once – my younger brother waited until he’d left the building to insult us all: his Facebook status summed up his feelings beautifully: “I’m done with bloody Christmas. Screaming babies, arguments, rubbish food. And Christmas cake. Who likes Christmas cake? So glad it’s all over.” I laughed, then commented on his wall. “I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. It was lovely, as ever, to see you.”

Swimmingly then. No hiccups. A husband without a stick up his arse (he can’t usually stomach holidays but I think he must have given himself a festive frontal lobotomy because he was laughing and everything). No drama, like the time my controlling aunt tried to leave my parent’s on Christmas eve because my father dared to respond to one of her demands to stop picking his nose with “Oh just shut up you old bag. This is my house and I’ll do what I want.” She gathered her stuff, and wearing an oversized mac and hat that made her look rather like Inspector Clouseau, slammed the door behind her only to realise she was a 15-minute car ride from the nearest cab station. That was a silent Christmas, and I’m not sure their relationship has ever really recovered.

The best present I received was not really a present at all. My parents made the generous offer of looking after all three children a couple of days ago and told me and my husband to bugger off and have some time alone. They were behaving like Christians would if they actually lived up to their name (and be honest, how often have you met a truly generous Christian?). We were  grateful, because the only people that ever look after all of our children at once have to be paid double-figures per hour.

My husband and I watched a double-bill at a cinema in town, then went for dinner. Admittedly I fell asleep during the last hour of ‘Tinker, Tailor…’ but that was because as soon as I couldn’t work out whether we were in Moscow or London I figured I may as well catch up on sleep, but I was alone in my thoughts and it was dark. No talking for about four hours actually, and I felt woozy and satisfied, occasionally opening my eyes to work out if Tom Hardy was my type or not.

Other people’s Christmas goodwill is still coming our way: my maiden aunt-in-law, if there is such a thing, is taking our ten-year-old out for the day. Anyone who can last two hours with her without dying of exhaustion (she always talks without pausing for breath) is a saint in my eyes, but this aunt-in-law is kind, doting, and enthusiastic with young people. Replace those three things with their opposite and that’s how my daughter sees me at the moment, so a day in the company of anyone who is dedicated to giving her a good time will be appreciated.

Without receiving twee tokens from family members who’ve read too much about giving their time as a gift (“Present a friend with a babysitting token/Tell your partner you’ll give them a foot massage/Give your mother a voucher for a homemade facial with aspirin that works in much the same way as expensive oxygen peels) I’ve been allowed some space and time this Christmas and I’m feeling good. Halleluljah!

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One Response to “A Christmas miracle”

  1. Leanne White December 30, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    made me laugh once again!, and im with little brother when it comes to christmas cake…….

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