When I was really little, when I believed in Father Christmas, it was magical.
There were traditions and rituals that we would go through each year on Christmas eve – my mother would take us up to bed, singing Jingle Bells and a big white paper sack that was nearly as tall as me would be left at the bottom of our beds for presents.
There were no presents under the tree until we were about 10 or 11. Until then, they were in the big old white sacks at the end of our beds.
Sure enough, we would wake up (as early as possible) and ransack them (my older brother and I).
I remember getting an A La Carte Kitchen (which for years I used to think was called ‘Anna Cart Kitchen’), after I saw the advert where there was a girl cooking beans on it – I asked Santa/ my Dad for one. Cooking beans seemed really appealing when you’re 5. I was a tad disappointed when it turned out to not be a real cooker to make those sainted beans on.
I did get a bottle of bubble bath though, which I can still remember the smell of to this day. That was used liberally to wash my plastic dishes (and my plastic dolls) in.
Another year, when I obsessed over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I got a sack full of gold paper covered turtle gifts. I was overjoyed! I got a handheld LCD game that by today’s standards was a bit naff, but back then, I held the holy grail in my mortal hands!
I remember the smell of tinsel and the plastic tree. It was weird how they actually had a smell, even the twinkly lights when they warmed up. Little things we grownups are too darn busy to notice now.
I would be beside myself when I would come home from school in the afternoon to see my Mum had put up the tree in the living room window. I’d rush to it, stare at the multi-coloured lights and touch the baubles just enough to make one or two sway and marvel at how the glitter on their surface would dance and shine.
I remember the school plays. One year, we did a play called Mother Christmases Journey. It was a world beater. Sinead Rankin was Mother Christmas and Matthew Benson (or was it Stephen Hill?) was Santa. Another little boy was the narrator and read the whole story, which everyone enacted as he spoke. I was the Queen, who Mother Christmas called in on during her journey. I had four little soldiers accompanying me down the aisle where the parents sat and waved regally at them, my friends Dad filming it.
One of the Mums in my class made the dress for me. It was a stunning royal blue ball gown that made me feel like a real Queen. I resented growing out of it in the end.
I remember the gold marker pens and glitter glue we got to use at school when it was the last few days o term. We would make copious amounts of Christmas cards, which probably never got sent.
As a Catholic primary, it was rather nativity and religious focused – obviously.
I remember sitting through masses and wondering why I was there, questioning the validity of the stories being read out of the big book on the alter. My mind instead enjoying the peace of the surroundings (churches just are so peaceful and calm) and the sight of the Christmas tree in the church, the advent candles in their tall stand and for the time for when I could finally go home and eat chocolate until I was sick.
Christmas though, hasn’t always been pleasant for me.
Other factors outside of my control have always found a way into my life for that one period of time and made things unbearable.
I have tried to always focus on those lovely little things, the bits that made me feel happy and as though I was part of something magical. Instead, the bad times are never far from my mind.
I won’t sift through nor give examples of the lousy Christmases I endured. Instead, I will simply say that they were not something I want to dwell on.
Then of course, Christmas became hard for other reasons. In 2007, we didn’t have a Christmas. We did not put up a tree. There was no turkey.
The full story and the fall out of it can be read it in this previous blog post. It isn’t nice reading for certain.
Now the Christmas of 2015 is looming and with it, brings once more the great biting feeling of new grief.
This is the first Christmas without my mother being alive. I’ve had plenty of Christmases without her, just not one where she was simply, not here on this Earth.
I still feel a bit numb. I’m not sure what to do or how to do it in terms of my mother’s loss this year. I don’t think I have worked out a way to compute it yet and settle down within the new world in which I live – one where there is no hope of reconciliation or change; one where she is lost to the stars and cannot reach me.
I loved her more than she ever knew, but I simply could not have her in my life. It wasn’t an easy decision – girls want and need their Mums. When they get married, have babies, have their hearts broken, when they’re sad, when they are happy. I wanted my Mum and I knew I couldn’t have her. It was so painful to have to live out my milestones without her. In a way, I feel like I have already lived through my grief backwards. I have grieved for the loss of not having her in my life when I have dearly needed her and now – she really isn’t here. I know I don’t have to justify my decision to anyone, but talking about it openly, I hope, may encourage those who are also grieving at this time of year, or are in difficult relationships to have a bit of extra strength.
I don’t know how I am going to feel over Christmas. I know most people around me are going to be just getting on with their lives, because so many are lucky enough to have a Mum still alive and one that they are close to.
I know I will feel better – I know I will be able to understand and unpick my grief. But the first Christmas after a loss is always so, so horrible.
If you are struggling with family right now or are grieving or just generally feeling a bit sad or lonely this year – you are not alone either in how you feel or with having someone to talk to. You can always talk to me! Get in touch on my ‘Contact’ page if you fancy.