The Mum, The Presents and the Wardrobe
My earliest Christmas memory is of my mum creeping into my bedroom after I was supposed to be asleep on Christmas Eve; she was wheeling in a dolls pram and I sneaked a look through one half closed eye. My mum was brilliant at making Christmas special but she was rubbish at hiding presents and I seem to have inherited this trait from her. When we were kids she always put them in the back of her wardrobe and it was easy to sneak into her bedroom and carefully peel back the sellotape and have a peak.
Christmas without Mum
When she died 12 years ago, it was difficult to face that first Christmas without our mum and so my little sister and I hatched a plan. We hired a cottage in deepest darkest Dorset and headed down the day before Christmas Eve with our families and our step-dad, arriving in a blizzard and feeling like we'd just entered Narnia.
Eleven go mad in Dorset
We had to sneak all our pressies with us in the back of the car in black bin bags and when we arrived we set off to find a Christmas tree and a turkey big enough to feed us all. The logistics of taking all the kids' presents to Dorset wasn't easy and we had to keep them hidden away in our cars until Christmas Eve night.
The Spirit of Christmas
That Christmas Eve was a really magical one despite the deep sadness we all felt at being without mum. My sister and I made iced snow angel biscuits to hang on the tree and decorated jam jars to make lanterns. Later that afternoon, with the wind blowing and an icy chill in the air, we all walked down to the village holding our lanterns, to attend the Christingle service in the local church.
In the church, the children were invited to dress up as shepherds and Wise Men with clothes from a big dressing up basket and took part in the Nativity story. Whilst we huddled together on cold pews, a group of ladies played Christmas carols on hand bells; those elderly campanologists and the members of that beautiful little church blessed our grieving family with a wonderful spirit of Christmas that year.
Back at the cottage, we fed the excited children, put them to bed after a round of silly games and then headed out to the local pub whilst Granddad babysat. After a long lock-in with the friendly locals and landlord, my sister and I started retrieving the presents that had been hidden in our cars. As we opened the black bin bags, she realised in horror that she hadn't had time to wrap some of her gifts before she came down to Dorset! So, there we were at 3 o'clock on Christmas Day morning wrapping pressies and working our way through a bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream. As we wrapped, we listened to Frank Sinatra crooning, 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' and drank a toast to our lovely mum.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
I will never forget our eleven-go-mad-in-Dorset-Christmas-adventure and every Christmas I feel very close to my Mum, and the wonderful Christmas memories she created for us. As I 'hide' my Christmas gifts in the dining room under coats, I wonder if my children sneak in and peel back the sticky tape like I did when I was a child?