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View as: GRID LIST

How The Small Stuff Really Matters

1
I don’t know what it is about Christmas but our emotions rise closer to the surface. It can be a happy time. But there’s also a heavy fug of expectation. It’s like a wedding where the preparations take over the day itself. Christmas is also full of ghosts of the past.

When I was growing up, we usually spent Christmas at my maternal grandparents house. The house was creepy (modeled roughly on the house from Psycho). My Uncle (who wasn’t much older than me at the time) told me about an old man who had died in the toilet. Apparently he’d had a

SelfishMother.com
2
heart attack and couldn’t escape. I found it hard to visit the loo after that. The bedrooms were downstairs. It was always cold and damp. One year I thought I saw a nun run out of the coal shed. My grandparents were Roman Catholic and each room had lurid paintings of Jesus with blood pouring out of his palms. There was a glowing Mary with light bulbs around her head. There was a wooden rat hanging over the bed. It was full of superstitions and shadows but it also a happy place.

Gran wasn’t a particularly good cook. Vegetables were boiled until

SelfishMother.com
3
they disintegrated on the end of your fork. The turkey was dry. The socks were full of oranges wrapped in tin foil. Gran did a trick where she folded the napkins up so they looked like two babies asleep in a cradle. It didn’t matter how many times she did it, it was always impressive (remember this was before the days of Sky and wall to wall entertainment). Christmas was often boring. When the basket of nuts came out everyone leapt to their feet to grab the nutcracker. That was the highlight of the day (after opening the presents).

When my Grandad

SelfishMother.com
4
passed away, Gran and I slept in the same bed together. We slept facing one another- our polyester nighties creating a wave of static that caused the lights to come on at night without warning. If I awoke and needed the toilet I was too scared to walk alone so would wake her up and tell her I was going. That way if I never returned she’d know I’d been abducted somewhere along the corridor.

I’d feel her warm breath on my cheek.

‘God bless,’ she’d whisper in my ear.

‘God bless you too,’ I’d quickly reply (I was very scared of

SelfishMother.com
5
that Jesus with the blood pouring from his palms).

My Gran was one of those people that I always associated with Christmas. She was as much a part of it as tinsel and Santa. She was a prolific writer and poet. She loved Arrow words and puzzle books. She was known as the ‘orchid lady’ and was one of the few people who could cultivate orchids without ending up with rows of pots with sad, lonely stalks sticking out of the top.

As she got older Christmas’s were spent at my Mum’s. Life is busy and hectic and this became the only time I’d see

SelfishMother.com
6
Gran. She was going deaf and could barely hear what people were saying. She became more withdrawn. As we sat eating (a slightly more upscale version than the dried up mush of the seventies) she’d fiddle with her napkin and wordlessly produce her ‘babes in a cradle’. For some reason this was less impressive than it had been.

But this was a Christmas ritual. Along with trying to work out how to get subtitles on the TV (and them filling the screen so you couldn’t see anything). Gran had a passion for gaudy stuff. Christmas was perfect for her.

SelfishMother.com
7
She loved everything. She particularly loved her Christmas earrings in the shape of flashing reindeers.

As she grew older she became more like a child. She sang all the time. Out of the blue she’d grab your hand and recite a limerick. She seemed to be testing herself to see if she still knew everything. My friend brought her baby over and the baby screamed because Gran sang too loudly in her ear. She was out of synch with the world around her.

One Boxing Day she fell down the stairs and suffered a spectacular nosebleed. My sister called the

SelfishMother.com
8
ambulance and she returned late that same night. We made her cups of tea and sat talking to her. I couldn’t sleep. I kept replaying what had happened. I felt like I was taking her for granted. I didn’t always listen when she sang her song that went – ‘I like a nice cup of tea with my tea’. I got impatient when she started doing the ‘babes in a cradle’ thing. I had forgotten that these were important rituals. That these were the things that were Christmas for me.

Gran died last year. Now, with Christmas almost here her death sits very close

SelfishMother.com
9
to the surface of things. Her songs reverberate in our ears. The mushed up food. The static. The breath on the cheek. The nice cup of tea with my tea.

Christmas is a time to be appreciative. To try and fight the rising impatience that we seem to suffer with these days. It’s time to let your Dad get to the end of the story that he’s told many times. To watch the programme that you don’t want to watch but your sister loves it. It’s also a time to preserve as many rituals as you can. Sometimes you just don’t realise the things that you’ll

SelfishMother.com
10
miss the most.

Mum has left a lot of stuff packed up in bags. Somewhere next to a rolled up sock and a calcified orange is a napkin shaped into two babies. The two babies sleep.

But we don’t need to see them because we finally appreciate how amazing they are.

SelfishMother.com

By

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- 24 Dec 15

I don’t know what it is about Christmas but our emotions rise closer to the surface. It can be a happy time. But there’s also a heavy fug of expectation. It’s like a wedding where the preparations take over the day itself. Christmas is also full of ghosts of the past.

When I was growing up, we usually spent Christmas at my maternal grandparents house. The house was creepy (modeled roughly on the house from Psycho). My Uncle (who wasn’t much older than me at the time) told me about an old man who had died in the toilet. Apparently he’d had a heart attack and couldn’t escape. I found it hard to visit the loo after that. The bedrooms were downstairs. It was always cold and damp. One year I thought I saw a nun run out of the coal shed. My grandparents were Roman Catholic and each room had lurid paintings of Jesus with blood pouring out of his palms. There was a glowing Mary with light bulbs around her head. There was a wooden rat hanging over the bed. It was full of superstitions and shadows but it also a happy place.

Gran wasn’t a particularly good cook. Vegetables were boiled until they disintegrated on the end of your fork. The turkey was dry. The socks were full of oranges wrapped in tin foil. Gran did a trick where she folded the napkins up so they looked like two babies asleep in a cradle. It didn’t matter how many times she did it, it was always impressive (remember this was before the days of Sky and wall to wall entertainment). Christmas was often boring. When the basket of nuts came out everyone leapt to their feet to grab the nutcracker. That was the highlight of the day (after opening the presents).

When my Grandad passed away, Gran and I slept in the same bed together. We slept facing one another- our polyester nighties creating a wave of static that caused the lights to come on at night without warning. If I awoke and needed the toilet I was too scared to walk alone so would wake her up and tell her I was going. That way if I never returned she’d know I’d been abducted somewhere along the corridor.

I’d feel her warm breath on my cheek.

‘God bless,’ she’d whisper in my ear.

‘God bless you too,’ I’d quickly reply (I was very scared of that Jesus with the blood pouring from his palms).

My Gran was one of those people that I always associated with Christmas. She was as much a part of it as tinsel and Santa. She was a prolific writer and poet. She loved Arrow words and puzzle books. She was known as the ‘orchid lady’ and was one of the few people who could cultivate orchids without ending up with rows of pots with sad, lonely stalks sticking out of the top.

As she got older Christmas’s were spent at my Mum’s. Life is busy and hectic and this became the only time I’d see Gran. She was going deaf and could barely hear what people were saying. She became more withdrawn. As we sat eating (a slightly more upscale version than the dried up mush of the seventies) she’d fiddle with her napkin and wordlessly produce her ‘babes in a cradle’. For some reason this was less impressive than it had been.

But this was a Christmas ritual. Along with trying to work out how to get subtitles on the TV (and them filling the screen so you couldn’t see anything). Gran had a passion for gaudy stuff. Christmas was perfect for her. She loved everything. She particularly loved her Christmas earrings in the shape of flashing reindeers.

As she grew older she became more like a child. She sang all the time. Out of the blue she’d grab your hand and recite a limerick. She seemed to be testing herself to see if she still knew everything. My friend brought her baby over and the baby screamed because Gran sang too loudly in her ear. She was out of synch with the world around her.

One Boxing Day she fell down the stairs and suffered a spectacular nosebleed. My sister called the ambulance and she returned late that same night. We made her cups of tea and sat talking to her. I couldn’t sleep. I kept replaying what had happened. I felt like I was taking her for granted. I didn’t always listen when she sang her song that went – ‘I like a nice cup of tea with my tea’. I got impatient when she started doing the ‘babes in a cradle’ thing. I had forgotten that these were important rituals. That these were the things that were Christmas for me.

Gran died last year. Now, with Christmas almost here her death sits very close to the surface of things. Her songs reverberate in our ears. The mushed up food. The static. The breath on the cheek. The nice cup of tea with my tea.

Christmas is a time to be appreciative. To try and fight the rising impatience that we seem to suffer with these days. It’s time to let your Dad get to the end of the story that he’s told many times. To watch the programme that you don’t want to watch but your sister loves it. It’s also a time to preserve as many rituals as you can. Sometimes you just don’t realise the things that you’ll miss the most.

Mum has left a lot of stuff packed up in bags. Somewhere next to a rolled up sock and a calcified orange is a napkin shaped into two babies. The two babies sleep.

But we don’t need to see them because we finally appreciate how amazing they are.

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I'm Super Editor here at SelfishMother.com and love reading all your fantastic posts and mulling over all the complexities of modern parenting. We have a fantastic and supportive community of writers here and I've learnt just how transformative and therapeutic writing can me. If you've had a bad day then write about it. If you've had a good day- do the same! You'll feel better just airing your thoughts and realising that no one has a master plan. I'm Mum to a daughter who's 3 and my passions are writing, reading and doing yoga (I love saying that but to be honest I'm no yogi).

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