I don’t even realize I’m avoiding Christmas until it’s right on top of me, suffocating me with it’s false pretense of family and happy. The Road Trip helped immensely– rushing around at a hundred clicks an hour is fantastic for ignoring whatever happens to be bothering you. Our Christmas tree goes up on our return, half–heartedly and just one week before Christmas Day, and I begin stripping it down again on Boxing Day. For every decoration I remove, I feel lighter– thank God this over, thank God I survived, thank God it happened before I realized it hurt so badly.
’Wrap presents’ has been top of my to–do list for the last month, and every day I’ve found myself some reason not to do it, some reason to put it off for another day. And again, while I tell myself it’s a matter of not having time, always a lack of precious time; I know that’s a lie. But not until its done and over. Not until I’ve cleared the boxes of a years worth of piled up gifts.
I think that part may finally be over now, too– I won’t have to repeat that process, exactly, ever again. The last of the stock of presents that Tony bought for our kids before he died have been wrapped and unwrapped again, added to the pile of listless stuff that people begin collecting in early childhood and very few of us ever give up completely.
I wrap two toy Ferraris and a packet of Thomas flash cards, all purchased by Tony and put away by me, for when our son was older. Never, ever imagining that Tony would not be here to give to him.
It takes me until the night of the 23rd to begin wrapping, and I’m fifteen minutes in before I realize that I have a three storey wooden dollhouse to assemble… sh*t. It takes me an hour just to get the frame together, and I cry and curse sole parenting and my husband and my life in general. Then something clicks– a screw slides into place where before it just kept threading itself– and the rest of the flat–packed panels shunt together smoothly. It’s 5am by the time I’m finished, and I write sleep off for the night.
|Dollhouse. May we never speak of it again.|
I wonder, later that night, if that’s my subconscious practicing guerrilla warfare on my cotton–wool wrapped psyche. I am so tired from my all night Elfing, I sleep right through Christmas dinner at my Mum’s. I wake for long enough to drive home; to bath, book and bed my kids; play Santa. I even remember to leave out an empty glass of milk and a plat of cookie crumbs– the poor reindeer got nothing, though, I’m sad to say. Then I crash again; a deep, warm slumber plucked straight from a year or so ago. I wake again at six am, still tired and bleary–eyed but conscious enough to construct gifts, referee sibling fisticuffs and point out those cookie crumbs. The kidlets way–layed with new gifts and DVD’s and a definitive parental–enforced absence of elf–delivered sugar; I return to my comatose state on the lounge.
My children are picked up by their maternal grandmother Christmas afternoon. It’s the first time in six years I’ve spent any kind of time by myself on Christmas Day. I’m sad for all of five minutes. Then the delusional satisfaction of a long, hot, uninterrupted shower washes that sadness, and most of the guilt, away; and I thoroughly enjoy the quiet stillness of my house.
Christmas dinner at my my mum’s is quiet and low key– Christmas Day would have been my Gran’s 81st birthday, and it’s strange to feel the absence of a birthday cake on Xmas Day. I miss the ritual of slipping her a second present, wrapped in birthday paper, with a card attached– a tradition I’d begun for myself ten years earlier, when she told me how awful it was as a child, being born on Christmas Day and only ever getting one present for both, where everyone else got two gifts a year.
I return home early and sleep again on the lounge, reading longform articles on my phone until I can no longer keep my eyes open. I wake twelve hours later, my mind swirling with strange half dreams where I mend the lingering loose ends in my life, attend to things I should be doing. It takes me an hour or two to wake completely and when I do it’s with another light relief– Christmas is over. I feel as though I’ve run a huge stretch through waist deep water, flailing in big strokes with my arms to get as much of this behind me as quickly as possible, eyes shut tight for most of the way, only opening them when it’s desperately necessary to adjust my course.
It’s over. But I feel like sh*t. I haven’t taken a single photograph. We did not do Carols by Candlelight, or Santa photos… I even forgot a carrot for Rudolph. I am that mother– the one who hates Lego because it’s too much effort. The one who sleeps through most of Christmas Day. The one with a lopsided, half hearted Xmas tree without a single string of blinking lights. The one who doesn’t bother attaching all those tiny stickers that come with every toy, all the printed line markings and shop signs and other details– why they can’t just put the bloody things on in the factory is beyond me.
I hate being the mother who just survives, instead of the one who does all the right things, the one who makes every single Christmas with her kids one to enjoy. After all, there is not that many of these Christmases left, with my children tiny and still very much in belief of the fat man with the red suit and the warm white gloves and big, bushy beard.
But, really… f*ck it. It’s the second Christmas in a row where, against the screaming centre of my mind’s better judgment, I have not been committed to the local psych hospital. That’s something.
And I think I can take stock of what I have done– right now, there’s two little children watching cartoons on the lounge. Both of them are happy, both of them still believe. They have been screaming at each other all afternoon– that, if nothing else, tells me they are as normal as children come. And, against all odds, sitting in our playroom right now there’s a three storey, pastel–decored little girl’s dream house I constructed all by myself, like a lonely elf the night before Christmas. Because Santa promised my Bump a dollhouse for Christmas Day. And, come high water or sleep deprivation, adult temper tantrums or 4am; she got one.
None of that is much at all, really; compared to most peo
ple’s celebrations- compared to my own past festivities- it’s nothing consequential. But it will do, for now. Christmas number two of the Strange Unpurple After is over… and all of us survived.