Thursday 23 December 2010

Every year since my mother

died Christmas has been a much more low key affair in our house. It was my mother who put up and decorated the small artificial tree which had belonged to her mother. It was my mother who put out the nativity set. It was my mother who wrote the seemingly endless Christmas cards. It was my mother who went off to Christmas lunch with her church Guild, her Probus group, her sewing class, her two lunch groups etc.
My father would retreat to the shed and finish making Christmas presents. He would make sure the front garden stayed reasonably tidy whilst also watching over his tomatoes etc in the back garden.
Mum liked Christmas. It was another excuse to socialise. She would even do a little baking so as to have biscuits to exchange with friends and neighbours.
My father and I do very little of that. I do not know where the tree is. The nativity set is now at my sister's place. It is a family heirloom but I am not going to have children so she uses it for her now grown up children who may one day have children of their own.
My father and I respond to Christmas cards if they are sent to us and I send a very few to people I care about who live abroad. I avoid Christmas lunches, Christmas "drink" parties etc.
As I have neither a licence to drive or a car and the taxi service is unreliable at best (and often non-existent) I just quietly excuse myself if invited.
But I do head into the kitchen and do some Christmas baking. I make shortbread and gingerbread biscuits. I make mince pies for my father and Christmas cake for my sister - who does no baking at all. I make "honey crackles" for the children to eat one cornflake at a time.
I am hopeless at icing cakes or decorating biscuits.
The biscuits get done up in cellophane bags printed with holly and tied with curling ribbon. I get pleasure in gradually giving away these to people who have helped us during the year.
And, every year since my mother died, we get a Christmas cake given to us. Our friend Polly arrives with "the friendship cake". It is delicious. It is iced to perfection. She is an artist. She also makes her own cards. This year's card was navy blue with silver stars and greeting. It is a work of art, as is the cake.
We will not cut it before the New Year. For my father part of the pleasure is to look at it, snow white icing, red writing. It is much more than the physical cake that gives him pleasure. It is the unspoken message "you matter to me".
I feel the same way about the biscuits. I could go out and buy shortbread or chocolates or some other item. I could go off to lunches and drinks. It would not be the same. I want to make things and, in doing so, tell people they matter.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

When my mother died, a long while back now, that was the end of Christmas, for my father. He refused to decorate the house, opened cards then put them back in their envelopes, and would not buy presents for anyone - took out the chequebook instead.
That way, he spread his sadness around.
Im so glad you can share some nice things - and I send you a hug for a happy time this Christmas. And I hope we find a little time for some happy memories of our mothers!

catdownunder said...

The first year was bad but Dad made the effort for us to have a Christmas lunch with family. My sister has married into the Greek-Cypriot community and they include us in their extended family celebrations. (There will be 21 for lunch this year - and at least 40 by the end of the day...including some who have nowhere else to go.) We have been lucky.
I know my father will always miss my mother when there are "family" occasions but he won't let other people feel it if he can help it. I am SO lucky.
Hugs to you too - and hope the snow does not keep you from family and friends.

Rachel Fenton said...

Time is so precious, Cat, in this "let's get a million things a day done" time. So easy just to ping off an email. But you're right, it's the hand made things - the gifts that say I spent time making this for you and you were in my thoughts the whole of that time. They matter. You matter, Cat. Remember to find some time for you. x