Tuesday, 28 December 2010
With stuffy heads and over-stretched stomachs we wrapped ourselves up and ventured out into the snow.
As the cold air bit at our cheeks and breathed new life into our smiles, the intensity of Christmas melted away and the importance of presents diminished. The pressures of visiting dwindled and the need for noisy chit-chat vanished.
And there in the cold, as we introduced John to sledging, the distinction between 'james' family' and just 'family' blurred once again, until it was as hard to distinguish as the sledge-tracks in the snow.
Monday, 27 December 2010
When the loudest of the guests had gone and the biggest of the gifts had been opened I sat amidst the wrapping paper and empty boxes, and opened a letter addressed solely to me.
Inside, my mummy had written these words:
I wanted to give you a star,
but then I realised you were one.
I wanted to give you happiness,
but I realised you had it.
I wanted to wrap up dreams,
but realised you lived them,
I wanted to make magic
but saw it was all around you."
And there in somebody else's house, under somebody else's tree, following a day with somebody else's family, I felt as though I'd finally come home.
Friday, 24 December 2010
I looked forward to this sewing project long before I knew the name that I would stitch lovingly onto the cloth and I anticipated the joy that I would get from hanging it long before this long-held dream came true.
As I sat up after midnight tracing hearts onto felt like a love-lorn girl I remembered the giddy thrill of bedtime on Christmas Eve and the wondrous magic of waking on Christmas morning. I re-lived the excitement that came from a lumpy-bumpy stocking and I prayed that John's Christmas memories would be as magical as mine.
Tonight, Father Christmas will stuff this stocking for the very first time and a seminal childhood ritual will begin. For the first time in a long time I can barely wait for bedtime to come...
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
After dinner, we stoked up the fire and crunched our way through the frozen night to a church that was illuminated from within like a snow-topped Chinese lantern.
We pushed open the heavy door and stepped into a space that smelt of candles and wood polish and glimmered in the quiet light of dozens of flickering candles; and all of a sudden it was Christmas.
Friendly faces greeted us with whispered greetings and wide smiles as we took our seats at the back and then the choir began to sing and candle after candle flickered to life in the darkened church, and the miracle of Christmas was real.
I sat at the back of the church with my little family listening to the exquisite poetry of Isiah and the beautiful harmony of the carols and I felt wonder unfurl in my chest. I held my candle in one hand and cuddled my baby in the other and blinked back tears as we sang the wonderful words of 'O Little Town of Bethlehem.'
Because right there in the quiet of the church with the cold air tingling on my skin, I realised that this was everything that I could possibly want for Christmas.
"How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given."
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
In the life that I used to imagine for myself home was a busy place in which jam boiled on the stove, carrots grew in the garden, honeysuckle meandered round the doorways and children ran barefoot through the hallways.
It was a bright and breezy sort of place full of cosy nooks and ancient books, where roaring fires and golden lamplight reflected off polished wood by night and curtains flapped breezily at open windows by day.
It was a place where sweet-peas tangled from vases in summer and a majestic pine tree cast its glittering glow on spell-bound faces at Christmas.
In the life that I am living, home is nothing like that at all. In this home milk is burnt onto the stove, rubble fills the garden, spiders monopolise the hallways and dust carpets the floors.
In this home chaos is a monster whose neck I cannot leash and order is an ideal that's forever beyond my reach. In this life summer is spent chasing flies against the window panes and Christmas is a fragile promise whose impossible beauty makes me weep.
Some days (when the sun shines) I can forget that there is mildew growing in my bathroom and mice running through my lounge, I can light a candle and I can concentrate on the little corners of my life that fit the templates of my dreams.
But on grey days like today when the sun's snuffed out by cloud and the sky sucks the colour from the world, the ideals of my youth seem remote.
And so on days like today I have to look very hard for the fragments of beauty that lie in forgotten corners of my home, and I have to remember that the dreams we have for tomorrow are gradually, gradually coming true.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Friday, 10 December 2010
Little one, sleep in quiet peace,I've made you a sleepingbag lined with fleece
And stitched all round with lemon thread
So little one rest your sleepy head.
Little one, close your tired eyes
Whilst bright stars shine in quiet skies
I stitched this bag to hug you tight;
So shut your eyes 'til morning light.
Little One, snuggle into bed
Where butterflies flutter overhead;
The morning is just a few hours away
So hush your cries 'til break of day.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
It's cold around here. Ear-aching, chin-chapping, head-splitting cold. The land is held captive in the grip of a fierce frost and it's devastating, beautiful and awesome, like any force of nature.
This morning, when the world woke up it found itself transformed into a fairytale too wondrous to have ever been told.
Ice crystals hung from every surface in sight and time seemed to be frozen in a wonderland of white.
Grass blades stood in stillness, transfixed by their own brilliance, lonely pine trees found themselves transformed into tinsel-laden Christmas trees and ruby apples hung like forgotten baubles in a world where everything else was white.
As I stepped out into my garden the cold slapped my cheek and the grass groaned beneath my feet. I looked beyond the crystalline branches and dropping strands of frozen cobweb to the Christmas-card vista beyond and I noticed that the air was sparkling with glitter.
It glinted in the morning sunshine like fairy-dust.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Mostly, his days are spent in enthusiastic exploration but sometimes a stillness comes over him and he stops quite suddenly in silence.
On those rare occasions, I see concentration cover his face and absorption flood his mind. His chubby little fingers grasp at the treasure at hand and his over-stretched brain tries to grapple once again with the newness of the world.
He sits silently examining the texture and taste of his toy, investigating its weight and sound, and frowning intently as he comes to terms with the new limits and possibilities of play and the ever-changing parameters of his world.
For a moment he is utterly engrossed. Past bruises are forgotten, future falls are unthought of, other toys are unimportant and other games are unimagined. He is completely consumed by concentration and as a result he is completely content.
Sometimes as I watch him I become awed by his contentment and I wonder when I was last so perfectly absorbed in anything that past and future diminished into insignificance and complete contentment prevailed.
I wish that I could loose myself in the perfection of the present and recapture some of that calm concentration of childhood.
Then I realise that I've lost the last five minutes just watching my baby play and that the little boy on my floor has helped me to do just that.