As we are well into November, everything is getting geared up for Christmas. The shops are starting to get decked out, and the festive goodies are already on display in some Supermarkets (even though most of the Christmas food will be out of date way before then)!!
As I may have said before, I come from rather a large family, most of whom have had the same upbringing, but it is funny how we all have our own ideas and traditions at Christmas time…..
My Mum, up until fairly recently lived in quite a large house which had separate dining room, living room and kitchen. The cupboard under the stairs in the dining room was chock-a-block with Christmas decorations. There were those huge plastic placards with snowmen or a Father Christmas on it; she had a box with her nativity scene, baubles, tinsel, strings of coloured lights (every year we sat there going through bulb by bloody bulb trying to work out which one had gone so the lights would work); she had church candles, christmas candles, a hanging santa which said ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ when you smacked it’s arse; another hanging Santa that everyone smacked their head on as they went upstairs; plus all of the dangly garlands and hanging sparkly bits…oh yes Mum loves a bit of sparkle at Christmas.
The only problem with that is, once my step-dad had sadly died and Mum got older, one of us had to put the damn things up. Now this was a mammoth task..and more often than not involved a few of us, which was not always easy to co-ordinate! The end result was to look like a fairyland Grotto. My younger sister always got the job of taping up the front-room windows and stencilled little snow shapes onto them, which always looked nice but was a pain to do. I usually tackled the lights which never worked, and then our husbands would set about putting up all the other hanging bits and pieces under Mum’s fierce direction
Instead of leaving us all to crack on with it, she would tell whilst balancing precariously on whatever furniture was handy, “could you just lean over a bit more to the left as it’s not straight” . You try to oblige and are struggling to keep your balance, but just manage to reach the desired spot when the drawing pin bends and breaks, so you have to start again!
All of this is usually carried out to the sounds of Westminster Cathedral Choir (one of Mum’s favourites) belting out Christmas carols in their high-pitched voices, (which actually feel like a drill through your head after a while) or if we are lucky, the usual Christmas album that nearly everyone has which my sister or one of the kids has brought over!
Anyway, once the job is done, and we have stood outside on the street to admire the decorations, lights and windows, Mum is left to fill up her shelves with ornaments, candles and other nick knacks. This is not the end though because of course, the tree has to be put up as well. She used to have a real tree but bought an artificial one some years ago which needs to be assembled!
I have done this job on many an occasion and it is not pleasant!! Firstly, the tree has to be retrieved from the garden shed, where it has become buried under all the summer stuff, chairs,, loungers etc. The garden shed has MICE which means I will scream my head off at any movement, and run out of the shed, This of course means that it takes ages to find the tree..
Once I have got it assembled a while later, it is another fight with the lights that have to go on it, not to mention all the baubles, bells, bows,robins and God knows what else, (not forgetting the obligatory fairy at on the top) before Mum would be satisfied with it. It was usually, by the way, only about the first of December at this point!
I just have to mention the one and only Christmas i spent with my Dad and step-mum. Myself and younger sister were about 11 and 13 at the time, We had traveled down to see him by coach and were excited to see what kind of Christmas we would have…..
My step-mum was a bit fussy about the decorations… she did not want any drawing pins in her walls or ceilings so poor Dad, with our help, put up everything we could with Sellotape! She was also not a very good cook either and as Dad wanted some home-made mince pies, and hers had turned out so hard they could be used as breeze blocks, me and my sister made them.
On Christmas day my brother and his wife (who lived in the same town) were invited over for lunch with us. He was in his early twenties, and at the time belonged to a motorbike group. He could appear a bit intimidating with all of his tattoos, earrings and leathers, and I know my step-mum was a bit wary of him….anyway we waited AGES for lunch. All of us in my family take after my Dad as far as large appetites go (step-mum eats like a bird) We offered to help but it was refused, and finally we were asked to sit around the table. At last!!! We sat there for a good 20 more minutes, until finally the sliding door to the kitchen opened (which was in the same room) and out she came with the turkey. We all clapped and cheered which nearly made her drop it, such was her rage!
As we sat around enjoying the meal, something strange happened….the decorations we had put up started falling down around us, one by one! On this occasion she had shut the kitchen door, so the steam and heat from the kitchen had built up and rendered the Sellotape useless thereby everything around us literally came unstuck! Me and my sister were trying not to giggle as yet another decoration landed around us! Dad caught step-mum’s eye, and carried on tucking into his turkey blissfully!!
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