My new grown-up Christmas to-do list
Christmas was just not cooperating this year. Which was possibly everything to do with an acute lack of snow and an even acuter twinge of pain from a torn shoulder tendon. And yet. Here we are just 10 days away from The Big Day (or 9 in Sweden as we celebrate every holiday on the eve) and I still couldn’t quite conjure up that hap-happiest-season-of-all mood to go with my morning coffee and currant-buttoned gingerbread man.
But now, having given the matter some considerable thought, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that it’s all because I was waiting for the wrong emotion to kick in. I was waiting for that all-singing-all-dancing tingly excitement; and excitement these days is highly unlikely to come whizzing down the chimney because, quite frankly, the things that excite me now are watching to see what my children will choose to do next and whether my novel will be picked up for publication next year. Oh, and whether our cat, Simon, will get through Christmas without getting another fur ball stuck in his gut.
Because we’re past the wonderful Christmases when my excitement involved numerous secret trips to the attic to hide gifts and watching the children tumble out of bed in their Christmas pyjamas to see what Santa has left in their stockings. We’re even past the Christmasses spent untwisting umpteen tiny wires holding Barbie and Bratz dolls into packaging, or assembling princess castles, or digging out the tiniest screw driver to fit batteries. This is the last year that our children will even legally be children.
And this, I believe, has been the root of my inner melancholy; the realisation that Christmas will never be what it has been until we (hopefully, but no pressure, kids!) become grandparents, and even then it will be different. My days of organising family Christmases with painstaking precision — starting mid-October — to ensure maximum excitement for the children slowly petered out as they grew older. And without all the child-related must-dos, my to-do list grew considerably shorter.
Ok. But what does all this newfound insight actually mean?
Well, all this having been established, my Christmas spirit is now kicking in with a vengeance. I will be busy adding sweet-smelling hyacinths to the windowsills, stacking logs by the fire. Stocking up on candles and replenishing the gingerbread biscuit tin. Posting cards to old friends. I shall find out what time the late Christmas Eve service is being held at the local church and swing by the chocolate shop. Perhaps we’ll make sausages together. I’ll ask one of the girls to ice the Christmas cake and the other to make some toffee while I roll the meatballs. Then there are gifts to wrap and family to collect from the airport. Oh, and I’ll put a little malt on Simon’s paw to prevent his fur ball problem.
Because what I really, really want for Christmas is that sense of momentary bliss when the sparkle from the tree meets the glow from the fire. When the whole family is safely gathered around a table groaning under coffee, chocolates and buns, content to watch a family film or play a board game together. When nobody has to be anywhere or do anything. When our new, individually hectic lives have the time and the right to stand still without that year-round feeling of guilt that we should be doing something more useful or constructive than simply being.
Because I’ve also realised that the hap-happiest feeling of all is contentment.
And that is totally attainable.
Because the hardest part, happy, is still here.