When I was a little girl, Christmas had a certain smell to it. You know when you step off the plane in hot places and it’s smells of sunshine mixed with sun oil. That.
Christmas at home smelt of my grandad’s pipe mixed with the smell of home-made mince pie’s, mum’s perfume and Turkey ( which she always cooked Christmas eve. They were a very sociable couple and had friends round after the pub for hot turkey sandwiches)
There was always a Christmas CD playing and mum danced. In fact we all danced a lot. There was even a dancing snowman that Tiger (our cat) used to attack.
We had a fabulous tree. Always red and gold baubles, ranging from small (top) to large (bottom). Just Perfect. I swear my mum has Christmas tree OCD.
Grandad Clarke used to stay over for the Christmas period. Mum and dad would always go out for a drink with their friends on Christmas Eve , leaving him in charge. My brother and I were allowed to ‘stop up late’ for our annual treat… a tiny glass of my grandad’s favourite tipple – Sherry. How grown up did we feel? I was sometimes allowed two glasses…but that was mine and grandads secret.
My brother and I would trot off to bed giddy, excited for the next day and maybe even a little (sherry) merry. My brothers face was that of an excited Angel with Rug-Rat hair. Always in super hero pj’s that were slightly too short. Always hyper.
We’d still fight while brushing our teeth.
One time Santa nipped into my bedroom and kissed my forehead. Dad still claims to this day it wasn’t him.
I loved Christmas.
It was magical.
I never wanted it to end.
It was always just the 4 of us ( mum, dad, Mark and I) plus Grandad Clarke(mums dad) and Grandma Herring (dads mum) and her partner – Grandad Reg.
Grandad Reg once joined mum and dad for Christmas eve drinks. He got so drunk he tripped and fell putting his head straight through mum and dads bedroom door. Grandma shouted and told him off. I just remember glancing at mum and us both fighting back the urge to laugh. Once we knew he was o.k we let it all out.
My belly hurt. Mum laughed so much, she cried.
Grandad Reg looked green the next day , very dazed and confused all through Christmas lunch. We still kept chuckling. Bless him he took it all in good spirits but didn’t eat much.
I remember snuggling up on the settee with mum feasting on boxes of Quality Street, engrossed in ( my favourite film) Jason and the Argonauts. Lazy afternoons spent watching Bible films… which made us both cry.
As I grew older we added Bailey’s coffee to the mixture. That made us even more sentimental and cry more.
Dad would leave us too it .
He’d go off to the pub and ‘catch a pint’ for an hour. He would come home and make us pork sandwiches and cups of tea with Christmas cake. Followed by yet more Bailey’s coffee.
Mark would be in his bedroom, off in his own world, playing dinosaurs or the sort. I have never known anybody with such a vivid imagination as him.
My grandma would always be dressed up to the nines. An extra layer of green eyeshadow applied, her ginger hair ‘set’ and blinged up to the max with fabulous chunky jewellery . She bought the funniest (unintentionally) Christmas gifts.
She once bought me 3 pairs of pants that were so big they would have fitted Santa Claus! Pink, blue and yellow – I swear they finished just under my chin. Gawd knows what she was thinking? Never one to be rude I told her they were fabulous. I don’t think a gifts ever made me laugh so much, especially when I put them on over my jeans and ran up and down the street in them. Mum and Mark watching on and falling about howling on the pavement.
Grandma would have a ‘couple’ (of Bailey’s) and start reminiscing… mainly about her ex-boyfriends. There were many I can tell you. Dad always says I’m definitely my grandma’s, granddaughter! I don’t know what he means….
I could never get enough of her stories. I would sit engrossed. Dad would sit shaking his head but smiling. He liked to see his mum enjoying herself. Her eyes would literally light up as she recalled her many escapades.
We would play charades – ladies against gentleman (the ladies always won)and card games late into the night.
Always lots of laughter.
What I would do to smell my granddad’s pipe again, to sit and drink a glass of sherry with him…to hear one of my grandma’s many tales.
You see you can have all the money in the world… but that doesn’t make Christmas or memories. Yes it certainly helps, but you can’t put a price on fabulous family, friends …or big pants.
Christmas is still special, maybe not so magical as I see things through a grown ups eyes, but special all the same. A little sad even as I remember the people who shaped my past Christmas’s and made them so very precious. Who are no longer around… in body anyway. Their spirit definitely live’s on.
So all that’s left for me to do is wish you all a very merry Christmas. Enjoy, indulge and laugh – go and make many, many memories.
Hopefully one day you’ll sit like me and remember the good times, with a little tear in your eye and a smile on your face.
Tears of happiness.
* Cheers *
Looks up to the stars with Bailey’s in hand ( something’s never change) and toasts loved ones past.
Here’s to a fabulous Christmas. I’ll catch you on the other side.