I used to love Christmas and I mean love it. Christmas music from December 1st, mince pies soon afterwards both with a generous side helping of serious anticipation. My father’s to blame – to paraphrase his favourite writer, he knew how to keep Christmas.
As I sit writing this while waiting for my lovely friend Jo to join me for lunch in a pub on Gloucestershire, the festive sound of Cliff Richard barely stirs me. Come to think of it, I’m not sure Saint Cliff has ever really stirred me at Christmas. He always seemed far more fun in Summer Holiday mode.
To get back to my point. This year, perhaps for the first time, Christmas doesn’t seem the same. Doubtless, age is a factor and not having children in the house probably plays a part too. Leaving a festive stocking out for two cats doesn’t quite cut it. But I don’t think those are the main reasons. Throughout my 30s and most of my 40s, I looked forward to this time of year with barely-concealed relish. My age didn’t matter. In fact, some of the best Christmases I’ve known came post 2000. Even after my father died and Mum was diagnosed, I didn’t notice too much of a difference.
This year, though, I haven’t been able to shake off a slightly melancholic mood. Memories of Christmases-past abound – from unconcealed delight at receiving the 45rpm musical milestone that was Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” (how did Father Christmas know I loved that record so much?) to my parents arriving more than an hour early for the first Christmas we’d hosted after we’d got married in 2001(Another glass of fizz Mum? Oh I shouldn’t I’ll be tipsy… .Thanks.) They’re happy memories of course – wonderfully happy – and I’m fortunate to have so many to recall. And yet, this year, I’ve been struggling to get past the sense of what’s gone.
When I visited Mum a couple of days ago, I found myself wanting to share those memories with her – after all, she was at the heart of many of them. I couldn’t and won’t be able to again. Instead I chatted with members of the care home team and Mum laughed along with us. In years to come, I hope that will be a memory I can treasure.
For me, so much of the joy of Christmas lives in sharing the warmest of memories. At Christmas, perhaps more than any other time, I need to share the present.