I’ve been avoiding writing this and it has taken me a while to work out why but I have now. The biggest reason is that I feel guilty that we had a nice Christmas Day. When I think back to the last 3, suffused with guilt and grief in equal measure and topped and tailed with tears, it’s hard to say out loud that this year I let myself be carried along with happy and the sparkle and I pushed Freddie to the side of my mind for the day. I don’t feel good about that but, well, we do what we do. It’s part of living with it.
Another reason is time; it has been mental. We’ve not had a relaxed Xmas holiday, we’ve been as busy as can be. So blog posts and memory making have both been rather stop and start and short and sweet. Lots of s words 😉
But the real reason, if I’m honest, is feeling the pressure of the tyranny of the right on thrifty Christmas post. Lots of posts and statements and comments and pictures that have made me feel guilty because I’m not thrifty, or frugal or minimalist about Christmas. It’s a long standing joke that every year I say I will be and every year I fail. I always know I will, everyone knows I will, it’s funny. And I don’t mind that – I LIKE that. But this year I felt under pressure from lots of “less gifts is more love” type of posting – it made me feel bad. Because frankly, for Xmas morning, our house looked like this.
And also this.
Now, I don’t know. There are 7 of us. Max and I buy ourselves our gifts and we get the kids to wrap slippers, wool for our next project, a dvd we wanted, new shoes we needed anyway – that sort of stuff. The girls spend £5 tops, of their own money mostly, on each other. Bene had all his presents bar a couple (Lego and pjs and a couple of tinies) from our shop. We get cheques from family and put that towards the gifts. We save up winter clothing allowances and half the kids parcels are clothes, tights, dance stuff to wear in lessons. This year lots of the gifts came from reviews I did of shopping sites. That pile represents a year of saving money, putting things aside and not a scrap of debt. But it represents an awful lot more than that.
To me, Xmas morning is magic, traditions, a whirlwind of excitement I wanted them to feel for as long as possible and carry with them. What gives me pleasure is thinking really hard about what thing will make their tummy lurch with joy and give them pleasure. I don’t weigh up budgets carefully because not each child needs equal spending to produce that effect. This year was Josie’s turn for the big gift, an iPod to share with Amelie and which will give her years of story listening pleasure. I don’t think Maddy loved her £35 ukelele any less and and Amelie is thrilled with a phone in the same way Fran had a last gasp moment of childish joy over a beautiful doll. I don’t love them less because actually I go a bit overboard; hair clips wrapped up in a silly present to unwrap are just part of the daftness but I get such joy from thinking hard about what each child will love. It’s not lavishing them with financial spend so I don’t have to think or care about them.
Our Xmas morning always starts the same, stockings on our bed, all together and then a family breakfast with gifts from the big man, normally designed to promote family time.
And then upstairs. I snapped this photo, trying not to see that space opening up on the sofa (I’ve been reading the Terry Pratchett Death books lately and the space that opens up around him and Susan… it makes me wonder…)
Oh the joy. A beautiful Girl for All Time doll for a girl who is almost big but wanted absolutely nothing else. Oh for the days when all she needed was a few more Tudor facts.
Until Bene got the hang of present opening (which didn’t take long) we really enjoyed a slow unwrapping and looking at each others gifts. And then… he got the hang of the fact that his ones had car stickers on!
And when it was all over… there was sleeping to do – before a family tea (pork in the slow cooker!) and a family film, more train tracks and a satisfied snuggle up together. We even fitted in time for a boardgame which Fran and Maddy had thoughtfully bought me.
And that was our Xmas; not minimalist, not frugal (well, still probably better than I normally do!) but full of thought and joy and love and giving from all quarters (eighths?) of the family and play and togetherness and memories. And that’s how I like it. I hope they will always remember it.