Towards next Christmas

Well that’s Christmas done and dusted for another year. I came out of it feeling weary and less than healthy – not unusual for this time of year. Certainly it was a busy schedule, and naturally I enjoyed the variety of food and alcohol on offer. It’s very easy to come out of those few days and heave a sigh of relief knowing that the post-Christmas break has come just in the nick of time. Sleep-in, watch the cricket, read a book or two, turn a lazy steak on the barbie, and so on. It’s just about my favorite time of the year for those reasons. Christmas is full-on, but the period between it and new year is super-chilled if you do it right.

Christmas Eve I popped over for a pre-Christmas drink with A, mum’s dearest friend, who has made a conscious effort to maintain contact with me because of mum. She’s an unusual woman, very loyal, but also prone to volatility. For her I’m extension of my mother, who she truly loved and still misses. For me I’m happy to turn up because of mum – it would please her. And because A is the only person in my life for whom mum still matters. We have that in common.

Stop me if I’ve said all this before. A married a guy a little over a year ago who is a self-made millionaire. They live in a lovely house in Canterbury which I’ve visited often and sat out on the rear patio drinking wine in the sunshine.

On this occasion I was invited because it was Christmas and it seemed apt to catch-up before the big day. Also in attendance was her mother, who commented how much I didn’t look like mum. There was cheese and dips and bottles of wine. A’s husband is a wine fancier like me, so generally we end up comparing notes and opening different bottles. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but over the last year have become quite friendly.

Late in the evening after A’s mum has gone we’re sitting drinking wine on what is a lovely, balmy evening. I’ve brought Rigby with me, and he’s lying contentedly at my feet. We’re catching on recent things, I tell them of my stint in Rosebud, about how the partnership fell through, about the settlement stuff up, and so on. It’s news, but just the tip of the iceberg really – so much more happens in my world, so much in fact that the stuff that shocks other’s I generally react to with a shrug of the shoulders. I’m used to it, and generally as I can do little about it I cease to worry (until I wake up in the dead of night). You learn to roll with the punches.

Anyway, I’m telling these few things and leaving out most and their faces grow grim. I understand why. It sounds like a litany of bad news, and hearing it for myself realise how depressing it sounds. M, A’s husband, says bluntly in response “basically it’s all gone to shit.”

Well, yes, I guess so, but still I found these words coming from him hit me hard. I couldn’t argue with it, but I didn’t like it either. If you’re like me misfortune is more than a matter of luck. When it’s you misfortune is very personal, and feels like a character flaw you hate admitting to. That’s how it is for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if M saw it much the same way. His words bit not just because they lacked any sugar-coating, but because they came from him. You have to understand that M is the sort of person I feel instinctively competitive with – though with more hope of success in a previous incarnation. The last remnants of my alpha self are roused.

His comment resonated with me throughout the rest of the night and into the next day. I’m certain that the phrase will take on extra significance from now. I can’t deny it however, just have to work to change it. I don’t want to be misfortunate, to coin a phrase.

Christmas Day I woke up in my hotel room and took Rigby for a walk. I had a cooked breakfast to mark the occasion and then set off across town to my sister’s. I gave my gifts, and received one in return. Then we set off for my aunt’s, living now in the cultural wilderness called Doreen. Traffic was so bad it took twice as long as it ought to get there. Once there it was much the same as before, just a different location. Happy, smiling faces, kids everywhere, the resplendent spread of roast pork and turkey and all the trimmings.

I find myself continually seeing children and thinking what great kids. I don’t know if that’s a product of my age or my situation, or simply because all the kids I meet really are great. I get sentimental, would you believe. I feel a great affection for their unspoiled nature. They’re true and good and they inspire confidence: if they grow up like this then the world is in good hands.

I remembered when I was a kid and the Christmas Day’s we enjoyed. Go back 40 years and it’s not terribly different, just different people and venue’s. The menu is unchanged, the order of events, the good cheer and childish delight, all remain the same. There are more kids now than there were then because the tree has branched out further. When I was that age there were between 5-8, depending who was were when. I was the eldest, and in retrospect I can see how that was important. I was the one closest to the adults, the constant as in the years ahead more kids would come along. Today it means I’m still the one everyone defers to, though full-grown now, and the one the ‘adults’ feel most comfortable having an adult conversation with. In fact I think I have inherited some of my father’s aura, though I have absolutely nothing to show for it these days.

Yesterday I was invited to share Christmas with a friend and his family. I was very grateful for the invitation. The alternative was loitering around my hotel room with Rigby. I’d have coped with that, but at Christmas no matter how much you grumble you really want to feel a part of something. And so I went along with Rigby to enjoy Christmas on the other side of town, a nice barbecue lunch, convivial company, and another shot of that particular Christmas joy. Rigby was great and warmly received, especially by the kids. It was a nice day, but just like the day before at the back of my mind I was aware that I was more an observer than participant. I could accept that. These were other people’s celebrations in which I had no stake. It was nice to be included, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I wasn’t.

So it is, for now. That’s all a part of next year’s project.


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