Can you remember a particular Christmas, in its entirety, from your childhood? Or do you remember little snap shots, a hazy recollection of all the years rolled into one? I have more of the latter but I can recall small moments so vividly…
It’s almost 4pm, school has finished for the holidays. The excitement of freedom and hightened anticipation. My skin tingling with anticipation too, as it begins to warm after walking back home in the cold December air. The kitchen is, as always, where the familiar, comfortable, late afternoon ritual of ‘coffee time’ begins. The percolator is making it’s usual steamy sounds and my mum is setting out the cups and saucers and mugs for tea. Homemade mince pies are presented in old biscuit tins and my dad is reading his newspaper in the living room. The record player is on.
Christmas, wouldn’t be Christmas without Jim Reeves singing festive songs on our record player. The mellow, warm tones in his voice, happy and friendly. Enticingly fitting for a traditional Christmas that harks back to a time more simple. I can imagine him surrounded by friends and family. All snuggled up next to a roaring fire. People dancing and laughing near by and home baked offerings in their plenty. Ahhh…
We are all home, collected back together after a day apart. Cosy lights are on and the dark is shut out behind deep red velvety curtains. An immediate sense of love and warmth and being ‘looked after’. Sounds and smells from the kitchen and the preparations for ‘coffee time’ follow me up the stairs, as I put my school things away. I love the fact that my bedroom is above the kitchen and I can hear all sorts of comforting sounds. The larder door closing, causing a vacuum that would momentarily click open the second of the two doors, before both being shut tight. The sound of my mum moving around and calling to my sister or dad to turn the record player off as the needle had reached the middle. A second cupboard door opening where, behind it, the mugs and teabags are stored and where the door sticks slightly, squeaking as it is pulled open. (Little things then, but things I can remember so vividly now.)
Our second Christmas tree stands in the hallway downstairs and has larger, coloured lights creating a warm glow that radiates up the stairs. This tree is the demoted tree and used to stand proud in the living room. It is a small tree. Artificial and silver. I used to think it was quite large, but it’s not. Very few branches fold down from a thin main trunk and, just like a real tree, it drops a lot of (silver) needles. I’m surprised it still has enough to look as good as it does. All other lights are off, enhancing the magic. As I step out of my room, switching off my light, the dark, quiet landing welcomes the warm glow from downstairs and the voices of my family and the call of ‘coffee time’ lure me. (Christmas was magical. The smells, lights and sounds.)
As I drink my warm tea and stave off hunger pangs with one or two of the mince pies, I stare dreamily at the newly appointed, larger, green Christmas tree. Checking out each ornament and imagining what might appear beneath the tree in a few days time. The radiators are toasty warm and my childhood cat comes to sit on my lap. I feel completely happy and content. The tv replaces the record player and the festive feel grows as children’s programmes, especially scheduled for the run up to Christmas, are on. Christmas has properly begun!
Every family has their own small daily rituals, some of ours being governed by the clock. But not strictly so… just happened to be so… sort of. Years later my husband would joke that whenever he asked if I wanted a cup of tea I would look at the clock. Subconsciously checking to see if it was 4o’clock! I have since grown out of that habit, whether for the good or not! But back then it would have felt unusual not to have ‘coffee time’. As a child, this was my normality. There is something comforting about this scene when I think back to it. It happened every day for my whole remembered childhood. Not always with mince pies and Jim Reeves though. Sometimes rock buns would show up! Much to my dad’s pleasure.
It’s funny, I know when I was little, I always got so excited by the presents (which child doesn’t?). But now, as I look back, it was the run up to Christmas that I enjoyed the most. I still do now. The collective longing for the excuse to just be at home, together. Enjoying time to do what we wanted, to have fun and relax. But more importantly, it was the small things that I remember most now and how they enhance my memories. And how consistent they were, but how they also adapted to the seasons.
I guess I’m posting this as I want to encourage you to think back to happy memories. To reconnect to your child self and see things from a child’s perspective. With a clear head and pure heart. I’m slightly scared, that as time goes on, I will forget them or at least the little details that mean so much. Or even the mundane, everyday happenings, such as ‘coffee time’! Writing them down helps me to think harder, to describe the sights, smells and feelings etc. I hope I come back to them in years to come and feel glad I did write them down. It’s also a really enjoyable exercise in descriptive writing! I suppose I am lucky to have these beautiful memories of my wonderful parents, who unbeknownst to them, were creating happiness in the mundane. And that encourages me not to worry about my own parenting ways. Whether I’m doing enough to form happy childhood memories for my children. Times have changed, things have got busier, but my children’s childhood will one day be their childhood memories and as long as they are happy, I’m sure they will have magical times to look back on. Maybe there is already a sound, a smell or sight that they are experiencing now in the mundane, that will, one day conjure up feelings of warmth and love later on.
Please let me know what you think when reading this as I intend to write more ‘little snapshots’ from my past and I hope you have some fond memories to look back on that fill your heart and maybe even a note book!