Merry Christmas Everyone! I truly mean that. I know it is basically a month late, but this is the kind of reaction time I am operating at these days. My tree came down on 7th Jan, punctually, but all I felt I had to get off my chest just languished, unvented. So with a few temporal tweaks, without further ado, here is my very tardy end of November / Christmas post, in case you were wondering what was really lurking behind all those lovely instagrammed meals:
I actually love Christmas – it is my favourite holiday of the year. Having said that, I am in a state of flux. Apart from a lot of uncertainty at home (all positive! more on that in a future post) there is a lot of emotional charge to this time of year, and although I am healing year on year, I am still contemplative and revisit grief. I always find this time of year melancholic, beautiful, moving, poignant for all its painful and striking contrasts, and it comes to represent an obligatory form of emotional and spiritual retreat, a time for introspection and taking stock and paying respect. Like a string of fairy-lights dotted with bulbs of varying intensity, there is a swathe of significant dates of variable levels of sadness and joy, more often than not, mixed.
- It kicks off with my mother’s birthday a few days before mine at the end of November (fyi, I turned 40 this year and had a disappointing day of grieving for her and the grimly jangling juxtaposition of ratty children to add insult to my emotional injury. Thanks to my husband we did a “Take 2” the following day and sanity and peace were thankfully restored).
- Then there is Thanksgiving. Since wedding an American, my birthday has been mercifully eclipsed by this newly adopted holiday. Despite the inevitable kitchen drudge-work, I do enjoy the dry-run Thanksgiving forms for my altogether favourite festival of the year, Christmas! It’s like a starting gun for festivities that last a whole month. This year we were invited for Turkey Day and it took a not inconsiderable amount of pressure off. I did bring a number of dishes along, including my famous sprouts. All my American friends and fam tell me with conviction how Thanksgiving is the best holiday, blah blah, but not having grown up with it, I am much more moved and initiated in to the Old World spirit of Christian festivals.
Then there is the concatenation of warm and fuzzy, new little lights that are the creation of our relatively young nuclear family unit. In a few short years we have already carved these young, newly adopted traditions a little deeper. They inevitably include the mandatory
- ‘End of Term’ punctuated by the lip-quiveringly entertaining ‘School Christmas Show’ and the local ‘Evening Carol Concert’ and then all the inevitable Christmas preparations like
- ‘The Wrapping of the Presents’
- ‘The Buying of the Tree After Rifling Through At Least 15 Lopsided and / or Balding Ones’
- the ‘Heinously Early Tree-Decoration Whilst Watching the Yearly Family Screening of Elf’ with Will Ferrell and the disturbingly middle-aged, middle class…
- ‘Daily Evening Sniffathon’ during which, like someone in a retirement home, my husband and I remark upon how remarkable the perfume of sweet pine is and how dazzlingly magnified it is when paired with the softly twinkling beauty of the tree.
- ‘Guilty Pleasure of Rat Pack Christmas Carols’ warming up my kitchen for 4 solid weeks, and the…
- ‘Ritualistic Putting On of the Fire’ in the grate, the…
- ‘Making of Afternoon Tea Including Compulsory Accompaniment of Mince Pies’ or better yet, Stollen or Panettone… (If it has candied fruit in it, I’m in. I also love to use up any left over baked carbs in a bread-and-butter-pudding-inspired number that is that rare combination of both thrifty and decadent.)
- Then there is of course the mixed blessing that is otherwise known as ‘The School Holidays’ which is deeply destabilizing in its contrasts (no rushing in the mornings, Yay! vs no structure and lots of energy and a reduction in ways in which to expend it, Sheesh!)
- … and then, once over the preamble, ‘CHRISTMAS’ proper hurtles in at a crazy gallop. We celebrate Christmas Even in an Italo-Polish hybrid soirée (see pics below) by eating only fish, then we go whole hog (or rather whole turkey) and stuffing and all the trimmings on the Day itself
In the aftermath of Christmas there is New Year and the intervening days in which things take a more sinister turn. There is a string of tragic anniversaries that cumulatively, wound up to my mum’s sudden and not at all peaceful death in early February. A string of extinguished fairy lights which handily, will probably forever eclipse my wedding anniversary and the delights of Valentines day. In other words, I basically have to pretend that January is not happening. Like a free-diver I hold my breath for as long as possible in a form of emotional hibernation.
In terms of my current mental state, I have been pining for this blog, missing it – since my lack of childcare as taken its toll – and the connection to everyone it has provided me since its launch this past Summer. Taking stock of the year, this little blog had almost 50,000 page views in November and 60,000 hits! And, if you can believe it, 7,000 unique visitors since I put myself out there one slightly fool-hardy and boozy evening in July. Bearing in mind I don’t do any promotion it isn’t a bad start, statistically speaking, according to my media nerd friends, and I have you to thank for it. There has been sharp drop-off however in my production of content, even though my cooking and parenting woes trundle on unabated and undocumented. Handling 3 kids – as many (most) people do – on my own leaves no time (read: energy) to write, or exercise, or go to the loo uninterrupted or… well, you get the picture… let alone form cohesive thoughts and their transcription. I have only my fabulously competent 80-year old father and my husband (when off-duty) to help me out during the day if I have any urgent child-free things I need to undertake. All rumination and writing has therefore temporarily dried up.
Who are we kidding though, what is the real cost of reality of 5 weeks at home with your brood, in a relatively confined space and few daylight hours during which to escape it? Well let me reassure you that it’s not all cinnamon scented candles and advent calendars in this house – nor moping and mourning. The real Christmas experience has been a mix of sweet chubby-cheeked highs and angry, chafing, tedious lows. Cooking and organizing (and lots of cathartic clearing out and tidying up induced by “I can’t have people round to eat, the dining table is a disaster zone“) dynamism and entertaining has been counterbalanced with a good deal of grim introspection and lip-biting and frustration and tribulation. It has been a drizzly, mild (horridly typical), unseasonal, far-from-picturesque December. This damp and sweaty backdrop has been the wonderful set for all the usual – as well as added – holiday dramas. For interest the littlest one has thoughtfully provided excitement with a series of mishaps: playground gash, bad scooter crash (and the ensuing twin black eyes that would put the best parent on the social services watch list) not to mention his totally uncharacteristic and sheer lunatic attempt to imbibe Olbas Oil (potentially life-threatening) which have resulted in trips to A&E (the ER) and plenty of stomach-churning and adrenaline for all concerned. A perfect storm if you will, otherwise expressed as the following formula:
abbreviated daylight hours + extravagantly long school holidays + roller coaster of Christmas excitement /ensuing emotional hangover + wet-weather-induced cabin fever = wonderful pressure-cooker of pent up energy and lots of time indoors to punish each other / implode.
All this scene-setting is not casual, it is to
justify explain how I have stooped to new lows in my parenting. I am sure you will appreciate some of these beauties:
“you make me want to go back to work full time!! I am a worse person when I am around you!”
“I don’t enjoy being with you, you make everything so hard! Why can’t we cooperate? Why do I have to grab you by the arm? Why isn’t a polite request enough???? for you to listen!!??? Or even 5 verbal REQUESTS?? Why won’t asking you politely to clear the table suffice??? You know? When you don’t listen, I feel like you have no regard for my feelings, it makes me feel liek you don’t care about me at ALL! Do you have any idea what effect it has on the whole family? “
and “You are rude and selfish!!! Would you like me to start ignoring YOU??? You see two can play at that game! I’m going to ignore you for the rest of the day! “. etc… ad nauseam. Basically real quality parenting is what we mean here. And the excessive punctuation is meant to convey increases in decibel levels. More on my failings in a future post. In the meantime, enjoy that festive glow as you mull over my exemplary parenting.
So yeah. That was my Christmas. How was yours? Better surely. Comments below please.
In the spirit of the release of the new Star Wars The Force Awakens, may the force be with you all. Roll on January!