Sunday, 6 December 2009

Or you could say it's moralising sentimental old crap

Today the entire family sat around the sofa and finished reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

It's almost an embarrassment, admitting that. Now everyone knows, really we are a Victorian family straight out of those pages.

I am sitting here in my grey morning dress with a white collar up to my chin, my hair in a bun, and Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are kneeling on the ground wrapping their cheeks against my skirts and upturning their shining faces and sparkling eyes towards me.

Ladies, get up off the floor. I am not sure why I needed to read that book aloud to you over three days. Perhaps it is because I am aware that you are now nearly ten years old. And we have quite a few Christmases Past.

Some of those I wish had gone better. Like the time Squirrel threw up Christmas morning then went to the sofa to have chicken pox in rotation with her sisters throughout January.

We have had a few Christmases Past marked too by special family members dropping dead just before or after, so now it is a memory-marked time of bereavement, house clearance and mental trauma.

Then there is Christmas Present. I am not doing too well there, quite frankly. Not by the standards of the enthusiastic advertising world, anyway.

Those ad men seem to think I should by now be a glowing Christmas mother delighting in playing Santa without a financial care in the world; stashing away perfect presents (only £399.99!); dressing trees; garlanding houses; planning parties for 300; tenderly preparing Delia's bits for the in-laws; then, all made up and with a body that's been at the gym 9-4, transforming with the suitable parfum into a strumpet of the boudoir for an adoring husband.

Really. The advertising world should meet Grit.

But what of the Christmas Future? I will judge what is ahead by what is past.

The past is filled with all of the texture that is children. Like handling three explosive devices that go BOOM! and shoot nails in all directions at any unguarded moment over a provocative question like Would you like apple juice? And yet those three explosive devices are all wrapped up in bundles that I can only describe as perfect love with scribbled hair and fuzzy cheeks and wide eyes and sniffysmelling gorgeousness. That combination makes no sense to me.

I think that senseless mix is Christmas Future. I hope so. Over the coming ten years you're all destined to grow into young women with more opinions about the colour yellow than I ever thought possible. Doubtless you'll shake this house from top to bottom with the force of the bathroom door slamming competition, but despite it, you're all going to be the most beautiful people I ever laid eyes on, in all this planet.

But here we are, reading Dickens!

Maybe I take refuge in Dickens because he makes a character come alive, or because I want to have an excuse to form my own opinion at the cinema, or simply because he gets past all this crap around me; like, he does not have a Father Christmas.

This is the time of year when I am about as welcome as a leper at a garden party, but I have never told the children that a fat bloke in a red suit smashes his way into the house that is secure at all other times of the year. Nor that he and a reindeer with a red nose drop presents all over the floor wrapped in the same paper you see for £1 down the local market.

Sure, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger know these stories, and they may take delight in them, but I have never encouraged them to believe them to the extent that I will now hang from my fingertips off a first-floor bedroom windowsill gripping sleigh bells in my teeth.

Some people hate me for my rejection of that culture. They say I am taking the magic away from Christmas.

But in her heart and soul Grit cannot subscribe to the theory that lies are the best magic. Round here I say that Christmas is a lovely festival for the dark days; we can make time to be with each other, remember all our good qualities, forgive all the bad bits about each other, laugh because we are glad for what we have, take the opportunity to shun the high street and use the charity shops, and think ahead to next year, and the people we'd like to be.

And maybe that's why I just finished reading A Christmas Carol.


Glowstars said...

And why can't you be that perfect, glowing christmas mother? Oh yeah, because she doesn't exist, and if she did we'd all have to hunt her down and shoot her!

Rachel M. said...

The church I grew up in didn't allow for material celebrations other then a nativity scene. We never had a Christmas tree, my parents didn't buy us presents but my grandfathers always did and mom made a big meal so it wasn't all bust.

As an adult I've had the freedom to try out different traditions. Real tree vs fake tree - the latter argument husband won. We occasionally put lights around the front of our condo and I put up a few decorations. However, I still haven't found a Christmas groove that I'm satisfied with. I think you have the right idea to buck the system. Looking forward to reading more of your Christmas ideas.

Anonymous said...

'Scribbled hair' - beautiful.

By the way - your blog is the only one on my blog list that doesn't automatically appear at the top when you have posted a new entry. No idea why that is!

BB said...

I just stumbled across your blog at a time when I am trying to decide how to approach Christmas in the future. I have a one year old and I'm not interested in lying to her about Santa but I think every other parent will dislike me when my child says "but he's not real". I like your approach of talking about Santa but not necessarily mentioning that presents come from Santa.

Grit said...

glowstars, i think the ad world should be run entirely by women. then we would see some changes.

you've set me off rachel. i've got 10 top tips to a bolshy christmas all lined up and ready to go.

mud, my posts never appear at the top because i always post several days late. it is just a thing i do. i am the late grit.

welcome, BB! i came to a conclusion fairly quickly that the way i could conduct myself regarding my 3-headed daughters was never likely to be an approach that pleased or satisfied the expectations of other parents - nor was one which fitted the norms of wider society.

i decided the relationship i would build with my kids was of infinitely greater value to me than any conventional framework society had to offer. that framework is in any case built around the idea of one-child-at-a-time.

i did not consciously set out to say 'screw you' to all social norms; it just looks that way.

Hannah said...

Fantastic post!
If I get the chance to do it all over again, I will definitely be omitting Santa - I really regret including him the first time around and was very nearly not forgiven when the truth came out.

Grit said...

hannah, i sympathise. the moment of discovery must sometimes be awful!

Hannah said...

It really was, and I'd gone into Santa and his other magical friends really blindly, copying societal norms. C had an awful moment of realisation when he discovered his wrapped up teeth (previously left for the toothfairy) in a memories box and the whole truth came out about everything at once.
Needless to say, I felt awful.

MadameSmokinGun said...

But I have fairies. They are very useful. They not only bring little delights throughout advent - making me very weirdly happy despite the bags under my eyes, but they have been amazingly handy over the years - decorating cakes overnight (meaning enthusiastic but ham-fisted sproglets must go to bed), replacing precious toys who had mysteriously disappeared (without Mummy having to favour someone by actually buying something extra), reuniting an anti-social pussycat with her mummy and daddy and lots of odd things that crop up. I love my fairies.

Grit said...

hannah, i keep my children's teeth in a purse in a handbag. how am i going to explain that when the police stop me?

i agree about the fairies mme sg, we had wish fairies here for a long time, and they came in very handy.

you made your wish to a fairy using the appropriate fairy form and after a month or two, and certainly always after pay day, you might even expect that a wish could be granted! i distinctly recall a soft pink hippopotamus arriving in that manner, suitably placed on the garden path.