“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
Singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on”
Joni has been my Christmas tune of choice for a while now. Not for me the shrill & grating Slades and Wizzards. I mean there’s George, obviously, that goes without saying, and Buble will always get a free pass.
However it has to be said that I’ve always preferred my Christmas in a minor key.
Christmas is so often about the gaps, the ones we try and mask with tinsel and hope that the dim light of the tree means we can’t see too clearly what is missing: the people we have lost, the life that we ordered. We sit in stillness hoping that the smell of Christmas spruce and spices will let us take stock, to see what we have and honour what is vital.
And yet, how do we begin to honour the gaping wound that has been torn in our lives. It is too soon for melancholy, we can’t take care of our scars when we are still bleeding.
We will do what we can. I pick through the ornaments for the tree, things that I took from home when my mother died so she would always be here at Christmas. Alongside those, the ones I bought every year for my children so that, decades from now, they could take them to their own homes – a piece of me and my love for them.
So many tiny gestures and traditions that would be my legacy.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. They were supposed to be memories of me, not of him.
Everything is out of place.
Yet we make decisions, picking our way through hoping to find a path with the least thorns to snare us.
Two stockings hang by the fire but only one will be emptied with relish on Christmas morning. We will cook pigs in blankets, his favourite, but we will only need half as many. We will leave a trail of golden coins down the stairs but he won’t be up before his brother to swipe every other one and eat them before anyone else is awake. His share will be eaten by someone else, or lie in a drawer until about April.
This Christmas, and every Christmas.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on