Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Tuesday.

I could hardly avoid thinking about Christmas today. There is a big decorated tree in the corner of the living room, surrounded by a huge pile of wrapped presents. Cards received adorn the doors, and we have one of those ‘candle bridges’ (electric) on the window ledge too. The main door onto the street has a wreath hanging on the outside of it which may be very wet now, but survived the storm-force winds.

Nine days to go, until what I like to call, ‘Tuesday’.

OK, so I am not a big Christmas person. I was at one time, until I woke up one night and spied my Dad stacking presents at the end of my bed. That clinched it, Santa didn’t exist after all. That didn’t worry me unduly, as I realised that I could now hint directly to my parents, instead of worrying that Santa might not have had time to read my note.

There were fond memories to follow. Parties at my Nan’s house, dressed in my best new clothes. Extra gifts from men I called ‘Uncle’, or ladies I called ‘Auntie’, usually some well-received money. Lots to eat, staying up later than ever, and sweets, lots of sweets. Long before I had got around to getting married, the age-old argument began. I had to be at my parents’ place, or my grandmother’s, if they were going there. But my girlfriend had to do the same with her family, so we could never actually see each other on the day in question. When you are married, that debate starts early in the year, usually just after the Christmas you have just argued about. Do you split the day? Morning at one, evening at the other? Perhaps have two Christmas Dinners, one at lunchtime, another in the evening? (Yes, I have done that)

Then there were the presents. In the absence of any list, most of the stuff given to us was either unwanted, or downright awful. If people stuck with reliable standbys like cartons of cigarettes, or vouchers, it was a relief. Buy jewellery for my wife, and I could guarantee that the chain wouldn’t be long enough, the stone the ‘wrong’ colour, or it was just something that she would never wear. Such gifts ended their days still in their boxes, at the back of a drawer. Dare to buy something useful back then, like kitchen utensils, and be left open to accusations of male chauvinism. And supposedly ‘sexy’ underwear? Never go there. Ever.

In 1980, I had to work on Christmas Day, for the first time ever. I was 28 years old, and felt liberated by having a genuine reason not to have to eat a dinner cooked to extinction by my Mum, whilst pretending I was alright with having a paper hat on my head. Ambulances must be available every day of the year, and it was my turn, I told them. For the first time I could remember, my Mum left her house on the morning of the 25th. She went to eat dinner with my wife and her family, twelve miles across London. She was collected, made welcome, and taken home after. But for her, it was unacceptable, and was certainly never going to happen again.

That left me in a dilemma. My Dad had left home when I was twenty-four. So Mum was on her own, and I had no brothers or sisters to spend Christmas Day with her. She made me promise to try to never work on Christmas Day again, so she didn’t have to leave her house for any reason. That started thirty-two years of always trying to get the day off, if I was scheduled for a shift on the 25th. A lot of the time I was lucky, if I applied to be off by January 1st, at the latest. Sometimes, I would be on night duty, so spend the day half-asleep, before having to go back into work exhausted, after shovelling down the meal Mum prepared for me. On a few occasions, she was in hospital on Christmas Day, rushed in by ambulance. So we spent our seasonal celebration in the relatives’ room, waiting to hear if she would pull through.

By the time I arrived in Norfolk, in 2012, I had well and truly had enough of the Christmas merry-go-round to last me a lifetime.

In fact, it has almost been my lifetime.

51 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. Its most definitely for the kids here, if it wasn’t for them, other than the family get together of Christmas Eve at the In-laws, then it would pass by without note.
    I used to always try and work at Christmas, the overtime always made it worth while, and when I worked behind the bar (many years ago) I was always guaranteed a good party once the punters had gone home.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate that you and Arlene (and many others) get a great deal of spiritual comfort from being Catholics, Wilma. I respect that, and the fact that you still celebrate the original reasons for the season. In most cases here, that has been lost, and it is just about commercialism.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Pete, your point about why people celebrate is a good one – but I also see a bit of a resurgence here in the states, perhaps because everything else seems to be a constant state of chaos – at least for one day there is a sense of tradition and normalcy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think in the specific case of Julie and her family, (so, my step-family as such) it is one of the few times in any year that she can get everyone in the same place, at the same time. πŸ™‚
      I just wish that it didn’t have to always be so noisy!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. I think I am lucky that when I was a child both sets of grandparents lived close to each other and we used to just have one massive Christmas together. When my parents split up it became Christmas Eve with my dad and Christmas day with my mum. Then I moved to the UK and started hosting an “orphans” Christmas at my house for all the ex-pats who had nowhere else to go. I chose not to go back to South Africa at Christmas because it’s crazy expensive and by then my parents were on opposite ends of the country. Since I met Mr O, I just spend all my Christmases with his family. I think his mum would be devastated if we were anywhere else and Christmas in the cold is so much more authentic than a BBQ!

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  4. I’m about midway through my cold, but today it was warm and sunny, so I went hiking with a friend over in Calico Basin. We took a loop trail around most of “Peak 3844” before taking another loop trail to the top (350 ft. above the trailhead), where we had a good view of both Red Rock Canyon and the Las Vegas Valley. After that, we did a wee bit of rock scrambling in another part of Calico Basin. All this activity did me a world of good, and I think will accelerate my recovery.

    As for Christmas, I don’t even bother to decorate, let alone shop for presents. It will be just another day on the calendar. An even more common Tuesday than yours.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, David. Glad to hear you have been out and about, and feel better for it. I have been managing Ollie’s walks, but my cold has got a lot worse, and is now affecting my throat, and voice. Luckily, I don’t have the need to talk to that many people. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I would feel like you had I been put in an awkward position every Christmas. Dilemma can dampen any holiday. When you talked about your dad putting the present at the end of your bed, it reminded me of a wonderful children’s book, β€œOn Christmas Eve” by Peter Collington. He’s British, so the story has your traditions. Wordless with perfect illustrations. Your grandson will definitely like it. Best to you, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Ah, now I understand why you are a humbug about the holiday. The stress of Christmas is enough to test the kind soul of anyone. I do my best to leave it alone and not be needy.
    My daughter-in-law and her husband and baby (!) are coming to visit for a fortnight. So much for relaxing on my winter break…

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  7. I’m a “bah humbug” person Pete. I enjoyed Christmas when my children were small, and then again with the small grandies, but it has become far too commercial. And children seem to want such expensive presents too! We avoid travelling anywhere at this time of year (and after returning home in the rain and horrible motorway spray yesterday I am going no further than the supermarket and the library this week!). The OH and I enjoy a quiet time, I might roast a chicken, but that’s as far as it goes!

    Yours sounds very hectic!! I do hope you get a chance to relax and recover from your cold.

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    1. Most of the next nine days are already planned out, Jude. Then as if that wasn’t enough, we have stuff on right up to and including the 29th. If this cold/flu gets any worse, I might have to just go on a Christmas strike. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I know all about shift work as my husband was a policeman and usually only had one day or the other. One Christmas Day I gave the children bangers and mash, then we had the relatives over for Xmas dinner on Boxing Day.
    Christmas is a moveable feast and the whole thing is too hyped, many people have good reason not to enjoy.
    One October we helped our son and daughter-in-law to move into their new house, then they invited her relatives for Christmas!
    We had our Christmas last weekend while older son was over from USA – so it will be just a Tuesday for for us as well!

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  9. I once had three Christmas dinners in one day, Pete. One at each divorced parent and one at mother-in-laws. We decided after that to have Christmas Day on our own in our own place. This year, I’m doing dinner on Christmas Eve for us and my sister, our son and his boyfriend and on Christmas Day they have to go to boyfriend’s mother’s – and we can slump and watch films, eating leftovers and chocolate.

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    1. We went to a restaurant for Christmas dinner last year, a first for me, and I liked it. So we have booked it again this year, for the latest possible time, 4 pm. That means an awful rush around though, as Julie wants to see her grandson open his presents, 28 miles away, and spend time with her daughter too. Then we have to get back in time to take Ollie out, before leaving as soon as I get changed, so we won’t be late for the meal. By the time we get back, around 6:30 pm, I will be happy to do nothing else at all. πŸ™‚ Then on Boxing Day, her younger son and girlfriend are coming, for yet another Christmas dinner! It doesn’t end there, as on the 29th we have all of her four children, and their partners and the grandson, coming here for a ‘Christmas Buffet’.
      I’m already worn out, just thinking about it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. As long as my son was alive, I didn’t even start a job until I told them I would not work the 25th. Afterward I volunteered to work, just to keep busy. Never again would i see the type of Christmas’ of my youth, but each year I do try to keep the spirit of the holidays.

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  11. Christmas has never been all that joyous for me…..an absent Dad,…and the final straw was my mothers death on Christmas Day 1979 after that it meant nothing…..I celebrate a little for the sake of my granddaughter….but it is nothing special….chuq

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  12. I love Christmas as you well know Pete. And it is not about Santa or the gifts, it is more about Jesus’ being born and giving His life for us. We could get around celebrating Christmas without all the fanfare, the quieter it is, the more it is felt but knowing that it has become so commercialized nowadays, we could not get away from those fancy gifts, gargantuan food on the table. The love of friends and family though is more important.

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    1. I know how much you treasure the religious aspect of Christmas, Arlene, and respect that a great deal. The spirit of that season seems to have been overwhelmed by commercialism long ago though, and I have no doubt that some young people would not even know why the day is celebrated. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

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