As I write, it’s lunchtime on New Year’s Eve. Our last visitors left on Thursday afternoon and it has taken until now for me to process it all enough to put a happy but very hectic week in some coherently written form! The cards are down and I’ve spent some time mindfully cutting out images for next year’s tags and cards, while this post crept up and created itself.
I love having my family here. I don’t see them nearly as much as I would like due to distance, work, school etc., but it is hard work coping with non-stop musical beds, clean bathrooms and differing dietary requirements for a week! When Mum’s here (this time for 5 days), we have constantly to shout and repeat ourselves, add in the stress of watching her shuffle and wobble and making sure the little ones’ toys are not going to trip her up, and you can see how exhausting it can be.
I think we had 3 full-on Christmas meals plus all the breakfasts,
lunches, dinners and snacks in-between! It was like running a B&B! Here is my youngest grand-daughter trying to pluck up the courage to pull her cracker.
Mum finally got to meet her latest great-grandson, already 21 months old, when my son and his family paid a flying visit on Christmas Eve and we just about managed the photos before he and his sister giggled and wriggled their way to the car for their journey home.
They left us an amazing amount of (raw) chocolate and a wonderful vegan, gluten-free Christmas pudding, both of which my son had made from scratch. The trickiest part was leaving the steaming to my husband to do on Christmas Day: first of all he asked if he had to remove the foil, then the greaseproof paper! Our son had told him to sit the bowl on an upturned plate to steam it but somehow this had translated to turning the bowl upside down and even to emptying the contents from the bowl altogether! Eventually, we got there and it turned into the best Christmas pudding we have ever had. (Recipe on The Raw Chocolate Company website). It fed 9 of us, at least. Some had smaller or larger portions, some had more than one. I think my husband had the last piece 4 days later.
The funniest part of Christmas Day was Mum trying to work out why I had given her a pair of Yves St Laurent boxer shorts! Poor Mum. For many years, since the kids were teenagers and would regularly request CDs for Christmas, we have taken to disguising a CD by putting it in a recycled box. Initially it was a Calvin Klein boxer shorts box, lately it’s been YSL. Mum could not fathom the joke. She kept asking why we’d bought her men’s underwear, and in Small! There was a see-through panel on one side of the box where she could see little presents wrapped in Christmas paper as well as the CD, but it all went completely over her head and fell very very flat.
(I once watched my eldest grandson trying to be diplomatically gracious about a box of dried ‘apricots’ I had given him which in fact contained a Harry Potter CD!)
My brother, sister-in-law and nephew joined us on Christmas
Day and we had a lovely chatty, amusing visit together. In the afternoon, we all sat and watched The Great Escape and I felt sure Dad was right there with us as we recited all the lines and anticipated our favourite scenes. It was all the more poignant because my brother and sister-in-law will soon be emigrating to the US to be with their children and grandchildren, and I felt like I had to soak up every second of our time together. I know my brother, who suggested watching The Great Escape, was also keen to create memories to take away with him.
We received some lovely gifts, I won’t mention them all, but these are some that were handmade and/or given to us by our grandchildren.
Our eldest grandson and his girlfriend made us cinnamon biscuits, No.2 grandson gave me a vanilla candle in a blue glass jar which had held lavender, combining two of my favourite smells, and No.3 grandson gave me the pièce de résistance this year: a cross-stitch cushion which had taken him almost the entire year to complete! He is 11 years old. I almost wept when he gave it me, he was so proud of his efforts.
This gift from my husband (‘Colouring the Tour de France’) was inevitable really, it was more a question of how many I would receive, but they seem to have shared intel this year and it was just the one! Excuse the carpet bags under my eyes, I had injured my back the day before and didn’t have any sleep – plus I was far too excited!
My husband – a chocolate fiend – did very well: our daughter-in-law gave him chocolate whilst our grand-daughter made him chocolate and nut biscuits; No. 2 grandson got completely mixed up when he mistook a box of Thorntons Selection Chocolates for the traditional selection box he had actually intended to buy for Grandad, so he spent a fortune on luxury chocolates, poor lad. But Grandad did share them out.
The highlight for my husband, though, was that he had company for a frosty morning bike ride! He hadn’t been out for a week as my mum was with us and he couldn’t leave us for such a long period, but once she had returned home 3 teenagers, their parents and Labrador were game for a ride and more than made up for it! There’s a fantastic cycle track nearby that follows the old railway line, going through woods and villages, with beautiful views, streams and wildlife, including otters and foxes. It’s great for families, walkers and cyclists alike.
In between cycling and eating, the teenagers had schoolwork to do, but we managed to fit in some hilarious charades and a film or 3: No. 3 grandson wanted me to watch Captain America: Civil War which he’d brought with him, so I duly obliged, and in return, they watched The Glenn Miller Story with me and were highly amused when I reached for the tissues at the end! In their eyes, it wasn’t a sad ending because he sent her an arrangement of her favourite song for Christmas! The fact that he had died completely passed them by. Boys. No. 2 had learned Pennsylvania 6500 on the violin and No. 3 is keen on becoming a drummer so he enjoyed the extended drum solos. Earlier, they had also tried to school us in Mario Cart on the Wii but spent more time laughing than teaching!
We had a wonderful time and I hope you all had a good break doing things together or alone that soothed or enriched your soul and recharged your batteries. I know I am extremely lucky to have such a big family with whom to enjoy such occasions.
The one thing that overshadowed it all was the sad news about George Michael and Carrie Fisher, both icons for our family. We are huge Star Wars fans and all the younger members went to see the new film in the days before Christmas. Her loss was and is a big shock. George Michael and Wham! were to my young daughter what Paul McCartney was to me when I was growing up. She and her friend knew all the words and all the routines and would keep us amused performing them whilst pretending to have a recording studio where their idols would come to record their latest song. In later years, we admired his professionalism, his superb voice, his candid interviews and his generosity. I had recently watched and admired over again his performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert, which for me was the standout performance that day.
I would like to thank you for your friendship throughout 2016 and wish you all a Happy New Year: let us hope for a peaceful one, where we come together with compassion, love and understanding.
I leave you with my tribute to George Michael. Cheers!
Copyright: Chris McGowan