ABOVE: Sorry to my dogs Al and Jelly. Once a year, they have to endure the silliness (in me) that makes them wear Christmas hats.
I am in charge of games at Christmas.
This is a self-appointed position.
I haven’t chosen this to get out of cooking (although that is a bonus), it is because I love games.
I make a grown-up pass the parcel, team word games, and a strange but hilarious game involving stockings and oranges (long story).
This Christmas I’m at my daughter’s house with her boyfriend’s family. I don’t know his family well, and some of them I’ve never met before.
There will be 11 adults, two kids and five dogs.
How into games will they be? How far can I push my sense of fun that isn’t necessarily their sense of fun?
And I have activity I want to organise that could be sensitive.
I ring my daughter.
“This may sound weird, but you know how every year I put a decoration on the tree for people I miss at Christmas —.”
She interrupts me.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” she said.
We discuss a craft table where people, if they want to, can decorate and write the name of the person they miss or who has passed away and place it on the tree.
And while I’m all about good food and games at Christmas, I know it is a time I feel emotions more and miss those I love more than usual.
Writing and displaying their names makes them feel closer to me.
I’ll be making a star for:
Our family celebrated on Christmas Eve. My dad would take us four kids to the shopping centre while Mum slaved over the special dinner of schnitzel and potato salad. We’d see Santa at the shops and the story we were told was that on our way home, Santa snuck back to our house and put the presents under the tree.
Once we were home, my dad would make us wait. He’d position himself across the living room doorway so we couldn’t get in.
We laughed, he laughed. He’d call over our heads to my Mum, “Shall we let them in?
We pretended to push past him into the room where the tree was dwarfed by the presents piled around it. That was my favourite part. Even better than opening the presents. Seeing them piled up in colourful gift wrap in a room full of expectation.
I always remember the child that isn’t with us. I like to make something to remember my baby boy who died in utero at 20 weeks. Sometimes I feel self-indulgent as if it shouldn’t matter so much because he never made it to the full term of my pregnancy. But it does matter. To me. He was a part of me, of my body and in many ways still is. I carry him in my heart and feel the love that I shared with him in his short life.
Warren died of skin cancer when he was 47 years old. He was the life of the party in the small village where I lived. If he was here for Christmas, he’d be dancing and wearing a silly Santa hat.
Ron died this year at 93, He was the one who’d be singing the loudest at Christmas.
My new grandson
William was born less than a week ago. My son and his wife live in Germany so it will be a while before I get to meet this new family member. I can’t wait and in the meantime, photos and videos on What’s App keep all the grandparents up to date.
There are other people I miss who live overseas in England and Scotland. One day I will share another Christmas with them.
Their names will be on our tree because friends matter.
More than the presents and the Amaretto cocktails I plan to make.
Now where are those Santa hats, I need to put them on the dogs and take a photo? Because Christmas is also a silly time, where I play and don’t have to be a grown-up for a while. And if in the quiet moments, my eyes tear up, that is okay too. It is Christmas after all.