Ah Christmas, season of love, peace and competitive card games using those weeny packs that one or two very lucky people manage to find in their Christmas crackers (everyone else having to make do with crappy plastic keyrings or tiny unusable pens or worst of all, miniature sticky tape dispensers.)
When the smoke from the crackers had cleared, I found one of the loathsome sticky tape dispensers amongst the debris. It was actually my sister T, sitting beside me, who got the pack of cards, but recently returning from France and putting herself on a gluten-free diet had left her in a weakened state.
Hey! I said brightly, waving the stickytape in front of her face in an enticing manner, can I swap you this?
Too feeble and wheat deprived to protest, the deed was quickly done and suddenly I was one of the lucky people, shuffling my cards with a pair of tweezers and challenging others to a robust game of whist.
But fascinating though it is, this is not really about lucky me and my cunningly cute little pack of micro-cards.
This is about my baby and his first ever Christmas and the great joy surrounding that milestone event.
This is about us being in Newcastle with my family, my dad and my step mum, C’s parents, my stepbrother, two of my three sisters, one fiancé and one slightly less grumpy granddad. (And his catheter of course which now pops up at all our family events.)
This is about Tricky’s blue/brown/grey (pick your colour) eyes opening wide at the sight of the glittering, flashing Christmas tree, laden with shiny wrapped gifts and sparkling ribbon.
This is about Tricky’s little mouth dropping open at the sight of my dad in his hypnotically flashing Santa Claus hat (also, unusually, a shirt, in honour of C’s parents) and his grinning response to the smiles of all those aunts and grandparents and uncles and great grandparent (and catheter)
This is about his delightful pterodactyl like squeal in response to so much shiny shiny, jingly jingly, smiley smiley Christmas goodness.
His presents were legion, and generous, and exquisitely wrapped. They were a reminder of how eagerly this baby was awaited, in both C’s family and my own, of how many hopes and prayers went into his being.
They were all lovely but just one made me cry.
This year, my granddad finally went to live in a retirement village. There had been two falls and some lengthy hospital stays. He was no longer steady on his feet and needed a walker to get around. But it was the catheter more than anything else that did it, the constant reminder that he was vulnerable and needed help. Most years my granddad did his Christmas shopping at the local supermarket, choosing an array of biscuits which he would then wrap in newspaper as a little joke and put under the tree. In years gone by he supplemented these with jars of home made tomato relish and one memorable year several bottles of home made ‘Irish Cream’ which curdled before the New Year.
This year, there were no jars of relish, no tins of biscuits. Instead he gave everyone in the family an envelope containing some money.
Tricky got the same amount as everyone else but along with the money, was the following note:
DEAR GREAT GRAND SON TRISTAN PATRICK
WELL THIS IS YOUR FIRST CHRISTMAS WITH OUR FAMILY AND I HOPE THAT IT IS A VERY JOLLY ONE.
I KNOW THAT YOU ARE TOO YOUNG TO READ THIS BUT “MUMMY” WILL READ IT FOR YOU.
I HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO GET TO THE SHOPS TO GET YOU A CHRISTMAS PRESENT SO I AM GIVING YOU MONEY INSTEAD, AND “MUMMY” CAN EITHER BUY YOU CLOTHES, OR A TOY, OR OPEN AN ACCOUNT IN THE BANK.
ANYWAY HAVE A NICE CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR LOOKING FORWARD TO YOUR FIRST BIRTHDAY LOTS OF LOVE
There was something else in the envelope, wrapped in a piece of paper. I opened it reverently. Inside was a rather sticky looking candy cane.
His first lolly, my Grandad explained.
Half an hour earlier, Santa hat flashing away, Christmas music playing, tree lights shining, amidst the laughter and mayhem, my dad had begun to hand out the first of the gifts. He picked them randomly, calling out names and I played elf, passing them round the room.
When he called out my baby’s name, I paused, wanting to savour this moment.
Sitting in my sister K’s lap, he reached for his very first Christmas present. As we all watched with proud smiles and moist eyes, he patted the paper, he fondled the ribbon and then…he fell apart in a Screaming Tomato mess and had to be swaddled and put to bed.
So that was Tricky’s first Christmas.
There were some repeat performances; a few quiet cuddles, some turkey flavoured breast milk, a quick hand of whist, more pteradactyl squeals, but basically, that was it.
It was, as my granddad had hoped, a VERY JOLLY ONE indeed.