Every year I would pack away the Christmas baubles and hope that things would be exactly as they were when I opened them the following year. I knew we were a really lucky family. We had two healthy, happy and well behaved children who we loved immeasurably.
This year as I hastily shoved the baubles into bags bound for the attic (or the bin) on Boxing Day, I felt sure I’d never want to see them again. Memories of that lovely day at the start of December when we all decorated the tree together as we listened to Slade blaring out from the iPod were too painful. But we probably don’t have that luxury, just as this year we didn’t have the luxury to pull the covers over our head and ignore all things festive. Isla was still waiting for her visit from Santa and we still had to go through the motions for her.
By the time Jude was sick we were are geared up for Christmas and all the presents were bought, wrapped and hiding in the outside cupboard for “Santa” to deliver. As he lay in the hospital bed, his heart being massaged to keep him alive long enough for the priest to arrive, I cuddled him and wailed at him and then I stopped. I had something very important to tell him. I held him close and told him that he was such a good boy and that Santa had been going to bring him the light sabre that he had asked for. I know that he couldn’t hear me and that it would make no difference to him whether there was a light sabre hidden in the outside cupboard but I needed to tell him.
Christmas morning was tough. Isla was still excited and looking forward to presents, games, visitors and chocolate before breakfast. We survived it, just. The problem was, and still is, what the hell do we do with the sack of presents that are sitting outside? They were never his so they don’t hold any sentimental value in the way his toy cars or lego sets do, but I can’t bring myself to move them. He deserved them. They should have been his.
A few weeks ago my in laws came up with a plan for next Christmas. They opened with the line “Christmas will never be the same” and proceeded to invite us to go on holiday with them and “escape.” It was a well meant thought if very misguided on two important counts. Firstly we don’t have the option to “escape” Christmas. There is seven year old girl who also deserves her presents, christmas trees and chocolate before breakfast in her own house and if we managed to give her that this year then surely we can do it again. The second reason is more fundamental. My mother lost her grandson so how on earth could I run away and deprive her of her only child and granddaughter at the time of year when we need to be strong together? Christmas will never be the same, but then neither is a trip to the shops or a walk in the park, there is no escape.