For some reason, I’m finding Christmas more of a struggle this year than I did last year. I’m not sure why, nor is it really from the perspective of ever last element of Christmas grating on grief like a raw and rubbing wound. This Christmas has some hope in it, which most certainly helps a great deal and we’ve all (but most especially me) got much better at handling the awkward things. I’m overwhelmed really, when I think about it, but how much I’ve got to grips with 4 present lists and Christmas carols and all the trappings that hurt like daggers last year. I’m hoping that it won’t mean it hits me like a brick on the day, but I don’t think it will.
I’m well known for my inability to be muted when it comes to material purchases. I’ve over-indulged in Christmas presents far too often and given my children too much stuff. From when Fran was little I worked on the ‘buy now, worry about the cost later’ principle and my gifts for herwere always what I wanted to get her, not what she needed or I could afford. Naturally this approach gets a) your finances into trouble and b) significantly harder, messier and more expensive the more children you have. After a spectacular row a couple of Christmas Eve’s back (before we really knew what a miserable Christmas Eve could feel like) I’ve been working very hard at cutting back on the piles of stuff, making things more meaningful and special and not overspending. Plus I’ve actually paid off all my debts and learned to live within a budget so ending Xmas will a credit card bill is no longer something I particular aspire to. This is the tree last Christmas – the first year that we all (perhaps me!) really properly understood that Christmas is about loving each other and the thought as much as the things – for 6 people, it felt quite sensible and it was a surprisingly joyful day too.
It’s funny really because through the year Max and I are not gift orientated at all as a rule. We’ve never done Valentines Day or wedding anniversaries bar a nice bottle of wine together and a bunch of flowers, most years we are extremely muted in our birthday presents. Two years ago I got a microwave – because we needed one 😉 Last year I got thoroughly spoiled and it was fabulous but I don’t expect it normally and Max is hopeless at never wanting anything and very hard to buy for. This year we are each buying ourselves a few simple things for the girls to give us and swapping piles! By the time we get as far as 70th birthdays or Ruby wedding anniversary gifts, I reckon we’ll be reduced to buying each other fresh surgical stockings and a new vacuum cleaner 😆
Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, I’m finding it very hard to get into any sort of commercial festive spirit this year. The grind of owning a toy shop changes it anyway I think. Christmas means 2 months of hard work, postal service difficulties and people being grumpy with us because it snowed, these days. I’m more aware than ever that we are a family that lives on a limited budget and, having got it under control in the last six months, I’m really reluctant to blow it on a gift fest. Then there are the children. They are growing up and are very changed by all the things that have happened to our family. I asked them for lists and this is typical of what I got – prosaic and undemanding it most certainly is!
This was Fran’s. I’m finding gift ideas for her very difficult this year. She’s on the cusp of young woman though still very young at heart, but certainly too old for toys from our shop any more. She doesn’t want for much and hasn’t asked for much – as you can see. I don’t mind, but most of that I’d normally just buy anyway. I think one of the reasons I’ve always tended to over-indulge in Xmas is the sheer joy of the magic and I’m sad to see that aspect of it go. I’ve got a houseful of people who are playing along with aspects of it all now, rather than being totally engulfed. It’s a change, a big change, not even an unwelcome change in some respects, but it is certainly a very new sort of family Christmas.
Of course, all being well, next year will be different again. I must admit I’m looking forward to relighting the magic a bit. Fingers crossed.