It is the twenty-fifth of January. This time last month was another 25th. It was Christmas Day. Yes, a distant memory already; we’ve been back in the real world quite long enough to have packed away all thoughts of Christmas with the baubles and the tinsel. When it comes to including Christmas here in A Corner of Cornwall I’m even later than last year, but I do want a record of it and it is just a month back after all. Not so very long ago. But be warned. And if you really can’t stomach the thought a brief foray back into festive realms I can’t blame you. I suggest you move along briskly.
This year we were again in Kent, with my sister and brother-in-law and their lovely family. Mum and Dad were with us and also Ellie, Steve and the boys. On Christmas Eve both my somewhat bigger boys and their partners were invited to join the throng. Sadly, Russ and Emma fell victim to the dreaded Aussie flu. We certainly missed them, but far better that they try to recover than drag themselves and the ghastly virus around the motorway.
With Tom and Amy and Ellie and family all arriving at almost the same time, numbers swelled. Wendy and Kevin had worked so hard and were still working hard when we arrived. But the welcome was as warm as ever and Christmas Eve became that magical time when the front door closes, all is well within, and the house is filled with bonhomie and happy voices, mince pies, carrots and sparkly reindeer food.
We had wondered how Ben and Evan would react. In a house they don’t know well and with lots of grownups about, Ben, in particular, may have felt overwhelmed. Not a bit of it. The boys settled easily and were a joy.
Family Christmases take on different forms according to the demographic of the party. A Christmas with young children is a different thing entirely to one with only adults and though it doesn’t seem that long ago that Jim, Al and Sophie looked like this…
… the ‘boys’ now look like this…
So it has been a while since there were young children around with Wendy and Kevin and Mum & Dad. Aged 4 and 7, Evan and Ben were the ideal ages to infuse what was already a beautiful Christmas home with an additional sprinkling of wonder and magic.
Everyone enjoyed sharing the boys’ delight as they solemnly set out the goodies for Father Christmas and his reindeer on Christmas Eve. Everyone enjoyed the boys’ amazement on Christmas morning when they first saw the mountain of presents heaped around the tree. It’s probably a good thing that Jim, Al and Sophie hadn’t grown up quite enough to be able to resist helping with distributing the parcels. Without their help we may still be waiting now for the deliveries to be finished.
Christmas Day and Boxing Day passed in an unhurried haze of good food and drink (though that may be disputed by the cooks), some of which was worked off by a leisurely walk in Leeds Castle on Boxing Day.
There were plenty of laughs and conversation, some requisite traditional games, much Lego building and the occasional Cornish gin and tonic.
But the highlight for me was first thing on Christmas morning. For my lovely brother-in-law, Kevin, the highlight of Christmas is Christmas Eve. For me it is always first thing on Christmas morning. Stocking time – and with the prospect of the whole glorious day stretching out ahead. And that moment captured the essence of this year’s Christmas, which for me was all about the very old and the very young.
The boys loved opening their stockings – sometimes the simplest surprises are the best. After which they sat with Mum & Dad to ‘help’ them investigate their own stockings. Evan helped Mum. This involved him opening more or less everything himself, and announcing what each thing was as he unwrapped it.
And Ben sat with Dad. He took a rather different approach. He carefully investigated each parcel: “this one feels heavy”; “this one is soft”…
The joy and surprise on Dad’s face, aged eighty-five, is no different to the joy on Evan’s face, aged seven-and-two-thirds. Christmas is for everyone: the very old and the very young.
Watching Mum & Dad with their great-grandsons was a privilege. A four-generational Christmas is a privilege altogether.
And then it was over. As is my whistle-stop revisit. But the memories remain bright, crystallised by this brief account. My thanks once again, to Wendy and Kevin, to Alex, James and Sophie, for all their hard work and for sharing their home with us once more.
It took us almost 8 hours to get home. The cats had to stay another night at the cattery. (Which gives me an excuse to include a festive shot of them both.)
It will have taken Wendy and family much longer to put their house to rights once we had all gone. For me at least, it was worth all the effort from everyone involved.
Christmas means many things to different people. Not everyone is as fortunate as I am; I am only too aware of it. Perhaps that’s part of what makes me value these Christmases as I do. But now it really is time for me to move along. In fact, already this year we’ve had a delightful few days away and we’re currently in the throes of a kitchen refit. 2018 has started with a bang.
2017 wasn’t the best of years. But it ended with some gentle, loving family memories and some wonderful unconditional support from my beloved sister, who is indeed “the heart of Christmas” and the heart of our extended family. I can’t ask for anything more than that.