For his homework recently, my younger son had to talk to a family member about what they remember of Christmas as a child. So he talked to me. It was nice to look back. This is what I remember.
When we were very young, before my sister was born, we used to go to my grandparents’ for Christmas. All of my grandparents lived in the same Midland town my parents had grown up in. We slept over at Granny and Grandad’s and Father Christmas visited us there. We had our presents in pillow cases.
I remember the Christmas when I was 6 and got a wooden desk and chair and having to travel home sharing the back seat with it. Not a comfortable journey at all. My Granny and Grandad’s house was an hour and a half away in those days – down to an hour when they opened the M42. The desk now belongs to my daughter and lives in her room covered in colouring pens and drawings.
I remember the Christmas when I was 7 and I had an appalling ear infection. It was also the year when I got the game Operation. The sound of Operation when you’ve got a really painful ear is hideous – you feel it as waves of pain inside your head. Thirty one years on, I can still remember it. As it was Christmas day, I had to go to the hospital. I got some horrible antibiotics and remember gagging and struggling to swallow it over my Nana’s sink and her giving me marshmallows to help it go down.
My Nana. My Dad’s Mum. We used to go to her house for tea at Christmas. All my uncles and aunties were there and my three cousins. My Nana had four boys and liked a big, traditional family Christmas with a massive tea with trifle and cake and card games.
After the ear infection Christmas, my Granny and Grandad moved into a flat, so they started to come to us for Christmas. They slept in my brother’s room and my brother came in with me. There were also a couple of years after my sister was born when we did actually share a room all the time. Every year we tried to stay awake ALL NIGHT. We had these comic libraries – comics that were more like books which contained a single story about Dennis the Menace or the Bash Street Kids – and we stayed awake for hours reading these things and talking. So every year on Christmas day we felt like absolute sh*t because we were so tired. But Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas without that feeling.
Once we started having Christmas at home, my Nana would have a Christmas weekend, usually the weekend before Christmas. When I was 12 most of the family got salmonella. We were driving home and my brother was sick. This wasn’t particularly noteworthy as my brother suffered from travel sickness. Later on in the day my Dad was sick. And then I was. (This was the last time I was ever sick.) My various uncles and aunties and cousins were ill too. My poor Mum was up and down the stairs tending to us all. I was the most ill, so I slept in the lounge on a mattress and she stayed with me. I was so ill that I had no recollection at all of the second night, but apparently my Mum was on the phone to the doctor in the middle of the night because I had no idea what was going on. Always defrost your turkey properly and cook it properly, people! I never ate turkey again.
When I was 17 I started going to the local pub on Christmas Eve with all my friends from school. It was a great night. Everyone was there and everyone was happy. I would drive home with my best friend at about 11.30pm and we would say we couldn’t believe it was actually Christmas Eve. I carried on this tradition until after I’d had my younger son, but eventually the gloss wore off – less people went along, people brought their partners along that nobody knew and it JUST WASN’T THE SAME. It was time to grow up and focus on my family.
So that’s my Christmas past. What’s yours?