In part one, I wrote about my childhood love of the Christmas season. But it wasn’t long before the magic wore off.
In my teens, I got myself a regular girlfriend. All is going well, then Christmas gets mentioned. She tells me that she has to spend Christmas at home with her family. My mum tells me that I am expected to do the same with mine. So Christmas starts to become something to get past, so that life can return to normal on the 27th. Besides, I know there’s no Santa by then, and my dad has long since stopped piling the toys at the end of my bed.
Now I am twenty-four years old. My dad has left my mum for another woman, and I definitely cannot leave her on her own for Christmas. So I don’t go to see the woman who will become my wife the following year, and she is expected to stay with her family. Which set of parents get our company starts to become more important than the real reasons for the celebration, and also takes over from the tradition of all the families meeting in one place.
People have moved around, and no longer live that close to each other. So I have to make choices.
Once I am married, my wife graciously accepts that my mum is on her own, so we will go there on the 25th, and to her family on the 26th. Three years later, I become an EMT working shifts, and all previous rules are abandoned when I have to work on the 25th, a ten-hour day shift. After trying to resuscitate a small child found dead in its cot on Christmas morning, then later an elderly man who collapsed and died as he was carving the turkey, I wasn’t feeling very festive when I got home from work to eat with my mum and my wife.
For the next thirty-three years, I did shift work as an EMT or with the Metropolitan Police. I used to try to get the 25th off, usually having to agree to work on New Year’s Eve instead. When I managed to get a free day, I had often been working a night shift before, coming home like a zombie, then having to drive to see my mum and go through the motions of appearing to enjoy a Christmas meal.
It wore me down. It was a chore, not something enjoyable. A whole year of stress, bulding up to two days that I always dreaded.
I grew out of Christmas.