No bah humbug today – don’t know why I’ve been accused of that in the past…
Of course it is all worth the time, effort and money to see the faces of our kids light up as the magic of the season takes effect. Iron Man and Cinderella are playing with their Hot Wheels track and Sylvanian Family treehouse as we speak so we must be doing something right. Everyone has their own wee part to play – “Best Christmas Ever!” is Jake’s catchphrase, “Taa-Dah” is Jenna’s, whereas Jill’s is “Jenna! Jenna! Look at the Camera! Jenna! Jenna!” shouted ad nauseum as the second born looks everywhere except where she is supposed to. The smell of the turkey is starting to waft through the house as the meat feast prepares for lunch and the desserts are defrosting nicely as we tuck into more chocolate – we know that the usual rules of eating are ignored at this time of year, including the ones on alcohol for those on to their second bottle of Champagne already.
Christmas is for kids. That’s the reason we fall out of love with it in our teens and twenties to a certain point because we forget about the magic and the wonder the day brings. As a child the idea of this generous and ever-watching bearer of gifts is a all enveloping idea that makes the sight of those presents a true joy – the thought that someone who has never really met you would do that for you is a special moment. When you find out the truth that magic is taken from you, but what you forget – and only remember when you become a parent yourself – is that the generosity and constant presence was always there in your parents. We take them too much for granted and there will be many sitting there this year without their parents for various reasons, and they would move heaven and earth just to say one more thank you for all that attention and accompanying gifts they give us at this time of year.
Without this descending into a Monty Python sketch, we weren’t the most affluent of families growing up. Dad often worked seven days a week to keep the family going and mum took on part-time work to get the extras we couldn’t always have. Their generosity at Christmas and Birthdays was amazing looking back; we never wanted for anything and were spoiled rotten by them and our grandparents. I’m sure in relation to others it wasn’t riches, but to us those items were gold dust and it takes time and finding yourself in their shoes to realise just how hard it is to juggle everything to do the best by your own kids. Now we’re in a decent position you always try to repay the debt you think you owe to them by treating them as often as possible but they rarely let you because you’re still their little boy of girl that they will spend all their days caring for. That’s the best gift you can ever have – unconditional love.
That bond you have between generations is what these druid/pagan/Christian/insert-other-belief-system-here festivals are for being with those you love and remember those who made that promise to you. Looking at our two I know how much they drive me round the bend, and cause my blood to boil at times but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. That’s what being a parent is: a promise to another human being – even more than the promise made to your partner on your wedding day – that you will be there for them whatever happens. As with all promises there are those who break it and those who can’t keep it because they have passed on. A broken promise can be repaired and regardless of the circumstances there will be a moment where it can be, and more often than not should be fixed. The ones that can’t be kept physically are always kept in the hearts of those left behind so they are not truly broken.
So as you look for the fifteenth set of batteries, help yourself to the third helping of dessert even though you know you are going to regret it and sit and snore in front of the TV remember those words that sum up Christmas for both those who are religious and those who aren’t: It is a promise of unconditional love.