This was also the week of Christmas tree decorating. I trudged outside to the storeroom and pulled in the 'tree', the artificial plastic one that we have had for four years and which is of perfectly proportioned size and dimension, the Christmas tree of plastic surgeons, the Christ(mas)y Turlington of plastic pine. It is however the dream tree that I craved as a child, when I would have given anything to not drag in the same tree year after year. Our childhood tree, because it had been pushed up against the fence since the previous Christmas, and because it never stopped raining in England, was always half dead when we resurrected it for another round of festivities. Inspection always pushed me to disappointment, and the dead side, after being peeled away from the fence, was swiftly pushed up against the wall of the lounge, and the sparse sections were stuffed with big wads of tinsel. Mum was always pleased with the effort; I was always half-hearted. Especially when the coloured lights went up. Why couldn't we just have white ones? They looked better and there were only a fiver in Woolworths. And don't even get me started on the multicoloured baubles that almost outdated the very idea of Christmas itself!
|Mum is missing, but the rest of us are there. |
1981 in the Muckley/Saul household
My youngest brother also did his bit, outdoing the neighbours with a selection of window lights. Not a window was spared. Showing early signs of a type-A personality I admit to having loved the competition, but I could never understand what drew my relatives to the coloured lights, and always bet myself that white lights, again, would have looked better. I guess it was 1988. Not exactly a year known for style, eh?
Christmas dinner was also fun event. Tables got pushed together, fold out chairs got brought in from the garden shed, and mismatched table clothes did just about enough to cover the join and difference in table height. Which I was always sat at because I was the youngest. Mum did a great job, but we didn't eat turkey. It was either a big chicken, or a cut of a lamb. At the age of nine and immediately prior to 'Chris-mas' dinner there was a show on the TV about the next spring lambs, and I announced at this point that I would become a vegetarian. Never one to steal my thunder, mum agreed on the basis that I at least ate 'Chris-mas' dinner this year. Under pressure I relented, picking my way around a few meat morsels, but it was my last for many years. About six years later Christmas dinner (the embarrassment of the decoration had proven too much and it had been removed from circulation) was interrupted by my eldest brother choking on a piece of turkey/chicken string. Mum intervened with a special and I might add, spirited version of the Heimlich manoeuvre. Never had I been so glad to have turned vegetarian.
So this year, out came the tree and on went the decorations. It's full of white lights, red and gold baubles, and looks like everything I had ever dreamed of as a child. I put out the nativity scene, carefully arranging Jesus (who has lost an arm in my scene) and the wise men, at which point my ten year old step-son asked me what was the point because I didn't even believe in God. I muttered something about tradition and kept going. A drummer boy accidentally made his way into the scene, and this was met by rolled eyes and a swift extraction by the same step son who left muttering something about how I didn't even know who was there when Jesus was born. The annual pre-Christmas party at my house was hosted this Sunday for sixteen people, and the washing up was finished last night. There are presents stuffed into cupboards and hidden behind clothes piles, and they will all be coloured coded and ribbon dressed because no, I never changed, and a white light filled, colour coordinated type A Christmas is still what I want.
But do I miss that old half dead tree and mismatched decorations, everyone sat round the table, maybe the odd choking fit, or a turkey substitute dinner? Was this years family dinner a total nightmare that had me on my feet and in the kitchen from nine in the morning until nine at night? Yes to both. Would I change it? No way. Without the hiccups and the traditions, even the misspelt homemade decorations or half dead tree, Christmas just wouldn't feel the same. In fact, Christmas is a time to feel the past. And even though my tree this year looks pretty good, without the memories of the old one, it wouldn't mean a thing.