Careful what you wish for…

Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

I’m interrupting the current series of posts on Perfection for the festive season.

The end of the year is usually a busy whirl for us, like most people. Before Christmas even starts, the autumn is already tough enough, with two children’s birthdays and the St. Nicholas celebration filling our time with party planning, present buying, cake baking and the tension of daily news bulletins updating us on the intrigues of this year’s St Nicholas storyline (oh no, the presents have fallen overboard/been mixed up/got sent back to Spain!). St. Nicholas departs on the 6th of December, by which time we are already pretty much worn out.

But no time for a break, as the Christmas train is already well under steam, and there are work social events, the school Christmas service, Christmas breakfasts/lunches/dinners at school/scouting/daycare, not to mention a new wave of present buying and the task of planning festive menus (don’t forget the tree!). We often travel to the UK for Christmas itself, and so regularly have to drive to school on the last day, herd two over-excited children into the car (still clutching their school Christmas crafts), rush to the airport and attempt to make it through security in time to get our flight. One memorable year both girls were dressed in pyjamas after a school treat, and arrived at Granddad’s house sporting antlers and flashing noses, courtesy of the airport Santa. Then it’s a busy family Christmas full of pudding, games and TV, diplomatic conversation and the dilemma of whether to enter the war zone in the kitchen to offer help or whether it is best to just stay out of the way. On our return, we visit the Dutch side of the family, and usually have a few social events with friends and neighbours before the holidays are over.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Although a lot of fun, and very festive, it is all pretty exhausting. Plenty of times, while pushing through an overcrowded shop listening to ‘Last Christmas’ for the nth time, sitting in a packed church listening to someone else’s children warbling through a Christmas carol, staring in unseeing boredom at the Strictly Christmas special (compulsory annual viewing), or listening to the stressed-out panic in the kitchen, I have wished that Christmas could be quieter. Two weeks just at home, doing what we wanted, no stress, no social pressure, would be heaven.

They always say, “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”. This year, that is certainly the case. This year, two weeks just at home is exactly what we have. No school Christmas service, no work social events, no busy shops, no visit to the UK family. The freedom to choose exactly what we want to eat, watch, and talk about, all holiday. But it leaves me with a hollow feeling inside.

Avoiding all the turmoil of the Christmas preparations means missing the growing sense of anticipation. Skipping the school celebrations means losing out on that warm glow I get as I see my daughters, togged out in Christmas jumpers and snowman hair clips, stand up with the rest of their class to belt out the Christmas song they have been preparing for weeks, chests puffed out in pride and eyes shining. The freedom from the requirement to conform with the rest of the family means missing the cosy warmth of being together, of cuddling up on the sofa indulging in too many chocolates, getting silly over the cracker jokes at the table after a few glasses of wine, and reminiscing about childhood Christmases gone by. Ducking the stress of my family’s elaborate Christmas meal preparations means warming up our oven-ready Christmas dishes in a Zen-like sea of calm – but totally alone.

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis

Even worse, just as always happens in the fairytales, whatever genie granted my wish has also twisted it against me. Yes, we are at home – but the latest restrictions threaten us with being cooped up at home together 24/7. After almost a year with very little time spent together as a couple, my partner and I have been longing for those few precious days in the holidays when the girls go to daycare to bake biscuits and have dance competitions with their friends, while we have some time to rediscover who we are when we are not being mummy and daddy. Yes, we can decide what we want to eat for Christmas – if the supermarket hasn’t run out due to people stockpiling. Yes, we don’t have the pressure to make socially acceptable conversation – but right now it would be a welcome change to talk to someone outside our family circle, on any subject whatsoever.

The temptation is to wish for this all to be over – but I’ve learned my lesson about wishes (at least for now). In any case, the people who have lost loved ones, who are struggling to scrape together some sort of Christmas after losing their job, or working incredibly hard to keep things going for the rest of us, are far more deserving of having their wishes granted. Instead, I will do my best to appreciate the quiet family Christmas that I so much longed for. All the better to enjoy next year’s Christmas, when hopefully our current troubles will be out of sight, and I can return to the old troubles that I now view with such nostalgia.

Photo by Lingchor on Unsplash

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Judy Garland

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