There’s a mild tightening in my chest which often occurs at this time of year. The first cards that arrive in the post always throw me off balance. It makes me wonder whether I’ve missed a memo or skipped a week. It’s exacerbated by all the posts I see on social media of beautiful Christmas trees up and decorated, presents bought and already wrapped. Fair play to everyone who is ahead of the game and organised for the festive season but I am not. It seems too early to be in full-Christmas mode. I don’t want to be sick of it before it’s here but neither do I want to slide into a proper panic because I’ve left it too late to order the turkey or an important gift. It’s a fine line.
We won’t get our tree until after my son comes home from uni at the end of next week. Gift-wise, I plan to do most of my shopping online with a trip into Canterbury on a weekday when it won’t be as chokka as it is at the weekends. Fitting this in will be a challenge, though, as there isn’t a day between now and Christmas Eve when I don’t have at least one thing happening. (There’s that feeling again…) It would help if I knew what everyone would like. In years gone by, detailed lists would have been drawn up by now, but at 14, 17 and 19, there’s less excitement among my brood, less anticipation. To be fair, there’s less build-up. There aren’t the endless Christmas events that happened when they were in primary school – there are no school events at all that I’m aware of. (That’s not to say that there aren’t any, just none that I’ve been told about.)
Although we do have our family traditions, the stockings that we (actually, mostly David) made when the children were small, each one with a different coloured ribbon, our much-loved decorations, our favourite films like ‘Polar Express’, ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Muppet’s Christmas Carol’ (just typing that makes me smile), our Christmases are definitely evolving now that the children are all teenagers. There’s no more waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, for one thing! This year, I’m planning to get them all more involved, to give them all jobs to do and I’ll try to not micro-manage every detail. Once the gift and food shopping is done, I intend to be relaxed about it, to enjoy the things that matter and not fret about things that don’t. This year, more than ever, I am acutely conscious of all that we have, of what’s important and how precious our time together is. My mother-in-law will be with us but my parents are going to my brother’s, so it’ll just be the six of us. I’m sure the teenagers will have plans and we’ve been invited to a few parties but I am looking forward to the times when we’re all here, when the curtains are drawn against the dark outside, the fire and candles are lit and we are safe and cosy together.
I took my daughter and a couple of her friends to the pantomime in Canterbury on Wednesday evening. It’s Cinderella this year and the ugly sisters were outrageous and hilarious, as were the puns, the costumes were amazing and fake snow fell all over the audience which was quite magical. And today was a gift of a day. I was due to attend a meeting in London but it was cancelled (I heard after I’d speed-walked the dog in the pouring rain but luckily before I left the house for the station), so I slowed right down, had another mug of tea and contemplated the kitchen. I spied the bowl of dried fruit in brandy for the Christmas cake covered with a tea towel which has been sitting on the side for a couple of weeks. It was meant to be soaking overnight but life got in the way.
Before I made the cake, though, I discovered that treacle had leaked out into the bottom of one of our big drawers where we keep all our baking ingredients, so I cleaned it out and threw away a load of out-of-date half-used packets. In full tidying mode, I cleared out the other food drawer and reorganised everything into similar products. THEN I made the Christmas cake. I always follow Delia Smith’s rich fruit cake recipe because it’s straightforward and always works and it tastes delicious. She says in no uncertain terms that you must NOT open the oven door for at least four hours. Meanwhile, the delicious smell is wafting through the house and David is complaining that we won’t be able to eat it for 18 days.
I hope all is well with you. Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to guard the cake.