Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas

It's Christmas Eve here in Cozumel and I'm just waking up from an afternoon nap following a week of intensive working (diving). Ever feel so tired that you almost feel drunk? Well that is how I am feeling today!
Anyway I tried to call my parents and borther to wish them a Happy Christmas and kept getting cut off (skype must be overbirdened at this time of year). So I've been lying here thinking of all of the wonderful Christmases I had a child and how lucky I was in comparison to lots of the children here. Its not really about privaledge or money but about the love that was in our house particularly at Christmas time.
Buying our tree - Christmas always started with the family outing to buy our Christmas tree. We'd all troup to Chopwell Woods to choose our family Christmas tree about 1 1/2 weeks before Christmas. I remember times where there was light dusting of snow. I'd be in my duffle coat and wellies. Trees would be piled high in groups of height and dad would pull trees out, one by one, for our approval. Mam would usually want a Scotch Pine tree (that none of the rest of the family would like) and then we'd settle on a classic pine tree, full of thick branches and smelling heavenly! We'd then take it to the man who'd push it through a big machine, which would put the trees in big net bags for transportation, and pay. As a little girl I remember hugging the Christmas tree in its net sock:) We'd then strap the tree to the top of the car with washing line, strung through open car windows, generally with a lot of family bickering and my dad sustaining some mild injury, which would usually bring us back to a state of hilarity!
Back at home we'd have to wait for my parents to drink coffee and maybe eat some lunch and then dad would cut the end off the trunk of the tree, to make sure it could drink the water we'd feed it and it would be set in a bucket and lodged in place with bricks (in later years things would get easier, with the advent of specially designed Christmas tree holders). Andy Williams would be playing on the record player while the decorations were broken open. In those days the decorations were stored in an old dusty suitace in the attic (actually I believe that that suitacse is still in the attic).
First the lights: we had little pink gold, green and blue carriage lights which were magical and then borbles, and ornaments. The ornaments came out every year and we knew them well. The pipecleaner Santa Clause, the little toy train, my favorites: the little drummer boy and his girlfriend, and of course the golden angel for the tree top. Many of the ornaments had come from my grandma's house, I especially remember a white raindeer and two little elves that sat on the branches. I can still smell the mixture of dusty old decorations mixed with fresh pine. Then when we'd finished it would be growing dark and we'd all settle down and watch television with the tree glowing in the corner. I could sit for hours, as a child, gazing into its sparkling branches. Imagining the little ornaments springing to life. We'd all choose our favorite light, or favorite bauble. Mam would always choose one of those clear baubles that look like big soap bubbles, because of the way some light close by to it would reflect in it and make it look a pretty color.
After much anticipation and opening of advent calendar windows, Christmas eve would finally arrive. I would be so excited - Santa Claus! Imagine, as if by magic, someone would come and fill our living room with presents. We'd usually be sent to bed early after leaving a sherry and a mince pie out for Santa Clause, and of course stockings for Santa to fill with presents (my dad's socks). Dad would read me a book I had on the nativity storey and also an illustrated version of 'Twas the night before Christmas". We were told to go to sleep or Santa might not come. I'd sometimes stand up in bed, stick my head under the curtains and press my forehead against the glass, looking for Santa's sleigh as it sped through the night. It was the most intolerable night of the year in terms of trying to get to sleep. I felt like I didn't sleep a wink, but in all likelihood that is probably not true. I'd talk to my old bear, big ted, about all of the things I hoped Santa and his elves would bring for me, into the early hours of the morning.
We had to stay in our rooms until a time set by my parents (probably 7am) when we'd be able to wake them up. We would all stand at the top of the stairs while my dad would go downstairs to check the living room and see if 'he' had been. He always had and we'd all rush down stairs and into the room where our little Christmas tree was glowing, surrounded by presents. I remember stockings filled with nuts, tangerines, foil covered chocolate coins and little trinkets. I'd always get a doll, my brother the latest Star War's toys. We'd go to church and I remember often hearing a baby crying and believeing that baby Jesus was actually hidden somewhere behind the little door that the priests would comeinand out of. We'd see Carol and Pete, my mam's friends with their kids Claire and Micheal who were mine and my brother's best friends; Then we'd go to Grandma Charlton's for more presents and then Grandma Quinn's - where all of my aunts, uncles and cousins would gather, drink sherry, be happy and exchange more gifts. Christmas lunch would be turkey with all of the trimmings (back then I ate meat). Grandma Charlton and my aunt Judith and uncle Robin would be there. After lunch we'd watch the 'Wizard of Oz', which was always televised on Christmas Day at around 3pm (in the days before video). That movie was a little like Christmas, all is grey and dull until the day Dorothy opens the door into Oz. I loved that movie. Then by evening time we'd all be wiped out and fall asleep on the sofa, well fed, happy and tired!
I hope that if I am lucky enough to have children I can make their Christmases as magical as mine were as a child.

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