Visitors all week-end has meant "blog-on-back-burner". When they had all gone at 3.30pm yesterday, I switched on to blog and found mind so clogged up with decorating, cooking, entertaining and washing bed linen that I read a few of my favourite blogs and then switched off. I must say it was quite surreal reading Mad Bush Farm's blog for Monday December 22nd, when it was only 5pm on Sunday, December 21st here!
This morning my mind is much clearer and is not yet clogged-up with today's ephemera and my eyes lighted on my Christmas Silver Bells. They are a good fifty years old, yet them come out fresh, shiny and "ringing" every Christmas as they have done for all those years.
Christmas seems to be a time for remembering - maybe because it is a focal point in the year, we can often remember what we did over the festive season. So I sat with my cup of after-breakfast coffee and cast my mind back to Christmas past.
First to old Christmas tree ornaments. My mother used to wrap each one carefully in tissue paper and put it in the "tree box" at the back of the cupboard under the stairs. This box would be carefully brought out every Christmas eve, when we would unwrap each decoration and greet it like an old friend. Our tree grew in the garden and was dug up each year, brought into the house, then planted outside again. I think we used the same tree every year but memory plays funny tricks as you get older, altering facts to suit the situation - so maybe we had a few. But we would carefully put our decorations up - you had to be careful as those thin glass ornaments were so very breakable. There was a tiny, shiny gold trumpet, a jade-green glass fish with silver scales, a little silver house with red windows (how i loved that one - best of all). Then we would clip the metal candle holders on to the tree, put in the little spiral red candles and light them - just for five minutes - and watch carefully because of the fire risk. Then they would be put out and never lit again (we even kept the candles from year to year.) Reading through this I realise how many times I have used "carefully" - well it was like that. Those ornaments were very fragile and not only could we not afford to replace them but also they became such objects of affection that we didn't want to lose them.
Then I got to thinking of specially memorable Christmasses and I found that they all melded into one, so it was hard to select special events. But one or two stand out.
The first Christmas with our son, in a cottage in the country, when he stood up for the first time and let go of the furniture, wobbled but stayed vertical and beamed at us as much as to say, "Look at me, I've done it!"
The first Christmas without our son, when, suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome we found it all very strange.
But there is no doubt about my most-memorable Christmas. It was in the early 1940's, I was a small child and my brother was away at war. On Christmas eve we brought in the tree and got out the ornaments, and put on the trumpet, the little glass fish, the silver house - but my mother's heart was not in it. My brother was away and she didn't know where he was or even whether he was safe. Both parents made a big effort, I suspect for my sake, but we went to bed with them in sombre mood.
In the middle of the night there was a loud banging at the back door. Mother and father got up. It was war-time and there was blackout - so the situation must have been quite scary. I remember standing at the top of the stairs, crying at the noise, and father telling me to go back to bed. But of course, I didn't - I too came down stairs.
Father unlocked the back door and opened it and there on the step stood my brother, his glengarry cap at its usual angle, his kit-bag at his feet - he had somehow wangled a few days leave and hitched a lift and walked the three miles from the nearest town - and here he was.
That was our best Christmas ever and my mother never forgot it and spoke of it until the day she died.
My blogging may be intermittent over the christmas period as I have visitors quite often - but may I wish anyone reading this a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Joyful New Year.
May we all find time to spare a thought for Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Mumbai - and all the other parts of the world where it is not peaceful, where there are tribulations we can barely imagine. May the situation in all of these places change for the better in 2009.