I had friends around on Monday and in celebration I put a little cone tree on the mantle-piece – my first nod to the season beyond the Christmas present wrapped and lining the top of my long bookshelves. I served Parma ham and olives and baked chocolate chip biscuits so crunchy they were shamefully inedible, but it didn’t matter, for here were my two oldest friends: Debbie and Lisa, women I have known since they were twelves and in whose lives, mine is inextricably linked.
We don’t need formalities. We simply pick up where we left off last time, and giggle our way through stories of men and children, houses and parents, understanding each other because our lives have always been parallel, our values identical.
So there we were: drinking fizzy elderflower and nibbling a chocolate orange, when talk got around to Christmas. Where would we be and who would we see? For all of us, this year would be different from the ones in recent times. Lisa’s sister had three new babies and thus would be taking over Christmas Dinner duties, Debbie’s parents had announced their intention to eat at a Chinese restaurant alone, and so Debbie would be at her Mother -In-Law’s and here at Chez Brocante, we would be celebrating our first Christmas without Finley’s Daddy, Mark, who had to be with his new wife in another city instead.
Much hilarity ensued, as we giggled at the necessity of suffering other peoples festive whims and making plans accordingly, but underneath the frivolity, the rolling eyes and the shrieks of laughter was a simple truth: we don’t change, but our lives do and it is at Christmas that those changes are wrapped in glaring fairy lights and make themselves known most prominently.
And so there has to be new traditions. And probably new arguments! In Lisa’s house they will hold a festive brunch before heading over to her sister Jackie’s and in Debbie’s, she will donate the turkey they take with them to Andrew’s Mum’s.
And in ours, I don’t know yet. Though Mark had intended to arrive as he always has on Christmas morning, letting himself in with Santa’s key, and heralding Father Christmas’s arrival with a shout up the stairs that “He’s been!” so that Finley, usually to be found in my bed, barely containing his excitement, could then charge down the stairs, embrace his Daddy and bury himself in presents – this year it simply cannot be. For although he had planned to follow his new wife, Hannah, back to her home town to be with her parents on Christmas morning, after he had seen his son, instead she wants her new husband beside her on Christmas morning and thus our festive rituals must be re-invented.
I am, I confess, heartbroken for Finley, who took the news terribly, and with much sobbing and anger, told me Christmas just wouldn’t be the same. And he is right. It won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better now does it? Perhaps we both have to look at this as an opportunity to mark Finn’s change from baby to big boy. To come up with traditions that are just our own?
So Mommy Santa is going to have to screw her thinking cap on. And she will- a thinking cap bedazzling in it’s glory. Cos Mommy Santa’s across the land are adapting to new traditions and coming up with the kind of moments that will make precious memories for always aren’t they?
Mother makes Christmas after all.