Old Friends and New Traditions

By Alison November 28, 2012 19 Comments 2 Min Read

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.


  1. Sherri G says:

    It really upsets me when the new wife does things to mess with a fathers traditions with his son. There is no reason why she can’t wait for him until he is done with Finlay. I know that you will invent something amazing for Christmas morning with him and that will become your new and amazing tradition. We are reinventing Christmas this year too so I am hoping that you share some of your wonderful ideas!

  2. Brunette says:

    It takes a deeply insecure and selfish person to leverage her power at the expense of a young boy.I shall stop there before I get myself sent into moderation. ***
    The only thing I can think of is having grandparents over that morning so Grandpa can help fill the Daddy-sized hole in Finn’s heart.
    I know that you’ll do every Mother-y thing you can to make the day as wonderful as possible for him. There’s nothing like motherhood to teach you how to put cheerfulness on for other people when your own heart is fluttering around in your chest like a wounded bird.

    God bless you both.

    1. chrissie says:

      & a shallow man to kow tow to that power.

      1. Brunette says:

        We need a ‘Like’ button…

        1. chrissie says:

          OMG ! Don’t we ?! Hugs C X

  3. Brunette says:

    Love the new blog set-up and comment system, btw. Gorgeous and simple.

  4. Gloria in Arizona USA says:

    Bless your heart..Changes like this can be hard at first, however it is an opportunity to make your own traditions that will last a lifetime. My husband asked me why I was so sad, when usually I am happy after reading your posts. He suggested that I tell you about what we did when the grand daughters first came to live with us and again when they went to live with their Mommie, 1000 miles away. I made a calendar which started on the first of December and list all the events that were going on around us like the light parade on the first, and singing at the college on the 14th. Then in-between the outside dates I put stay at home things to do just for that day. May home made greeting cards, and stamp wrapping paper….etc. We did this until the 24th and on that night we bundled the girls up and toured the area looking for the best Christmas lights. Then we had cocoa and cookies and bundled them up and told them they had to stay up and wait..we read them the Christmas story…in the mean time I had made a package of glitter and sugar and sprinkles and when they went off to sleep we sprinkled it under the front window. and then under the tree area…angel dust….They had two Christmas seasons with us and still they remember those times. They helped with the food drive, visited shut in older folks and brought things for the animal shelter…..that is what they remembered the most because we dressed up fancy and went to places.I hope this helps you dear.

  5. Helen says:

    Oh poo…it does make me think that perhaps they could have waited for a couple of years…I hope Finley’s Dad knows exactly how he feels, I’ve found it very important to tread the line between making excuses to allay hurt by an absent father and sort of taking the blame yourself. It’s very easy for the Dad to decide on these things when/if he doesn’t see the consequences and important for him to take his responsibility for the hurt and do his best to explain properly and lovingly. But you don’t need any teeth grinding from me…New traditions can be brilliant, I used to think that Christmas was all about close family time but in the past few years we have various friends who’s plans have gone awry, close and not so close, around the table and we’ve all had a truly wonderful time…On with the festivities I say!

  6. Brunette says:

    I bet Mark will be feeling more than a tad unhappy once he actually goes through with it. And he’ll have no one but himself and New Wifey to blame. I don’t think either one of them thought this through. Deliberately driving a wedge between father and son is the stuff of which divorces are made.
    .. So much for “stopping there”.
    The problem with blogging is that people who love your blog so much they read the whole thing all the way back to the beginning come off as creepy stalkers who’ve been peeking in your windows for the past 6+ years. 🙂
    Love ya, Alison. Love your blog, your style, the ideal of Mummyhood and housekeeping you’re striving toward, and the relentless way you put your heart out there. You’ve swished, stumbled, and sashayed gloriously into the hearts of women all across the world through one adorably polka-dotted little blog.
    Now, I must go cuddle my adorable little 7 month old brunette babba (the ONLY brunette out of my 5 kids:), while I sip tea and finish filling out my Brocante Christmas planner.
    Alison, you have NO idea how much better I feel about planning a wonderful Christmas for 5 small children when I read your Christmas downloads. You’re a lifesaver.

  7. Frannie says:

    I’m making new traditions here in the Midwest too. I’d been thousands of miles away when my grandchildren were growing up…so when I returned to my home state it was a big deal for Grandma to stay overnight and watch them open their Christmas presents on Christmas morning. They are almost grown now (granddaughter is 18 and just moved in to her first apartment with her 6 month old and boyfriend) and grandson is 14. Their mom is now living with her boyfriend and his two kids.
    So this year, I am reverting back to my own childhood tradition where Grandma visits on Christmas Eve and it is a treat to open only her presents that evening. Then I will toddle back to my home which is two hours away from theirs. We don’t know yet where the celebration will be held but I know I will be shopping for a few more gifts for the “new family members”. Next year I will definately be handcrafting my gifts! Then on Christmas I may have a couple of single friends for brunch or go to a potluck Christmas dinner.

    I remember that first Christmas after my divorce when it was just my daughter and I. She wasn’t two yet and her Dad chose not to be in her life so we really hadn’t established any memorable traditions with him. It was blessed anyhow…after Thanksgiving dinner my Dad took us out in his yard to cut down a small blue spruce for our Christmas Tree…and our tradition of decorating the tree the day after Thanksgiving was born. We also cut trees out of Grandpa’s yard for many years.

    Our family gathered on Christmas Eve and for a year or two we stayed overnight at my parents’ home and Santa brought my daughter’s parents there. Then I found a new love and we became a family and again started new traditions. When she was a teen, the marriage ended and again it was “just the two of us” and then too quickly she was out of the house with her own family and traditions.

    Again, I reworked my traditions for single life and then again, for 7 joyous years I shared Christmas with a wonderful loving man who loved Christmas as I did. In 2007 he died and I returned to my home state…that year the tree stood among unpacked moving boxes as I just couldn’t function. Another couple of years passed where I didn’t even do a tree or much decorating.

    This year is the first where I’ve looked to the season in joyful anticipation—partly because I have a new great grandson who is six months old. But I’ve swapped the eight foot tree for two three footers…even if my ceiling was tall enough my artificial knees rule out standing on a ladder to decorate.

    I’m downsizing to go into a 55+ apartment so I’m letting go of some of my “holiday finery”. I’ve kept the Christmas china that comes out when the fine china goes into the cupboard after Thanksgiving dinner and returns to the cupboard on New Year’s Day…but only two place settings come out unless I need more. I also let go of most of the Christmas themed serving pieces as the open house my husband and I used to do will be no more. These days it will be tea for a few girlfriends or a small dinner party or two.

    My heart aches for you and Finley because of the hole that his father’s absence will leave in your day…what a burden for the little guy to have to carry! I know that you will come up with new and loving traditions for Christmas for just the two of you. In the meantime, I will keep you in my heart this Christmas season.

  8. Things will be very different for us this year, too. We have lived in Idaho for almost 2 years. Prior to that, we lived in Southern California. I had spent most of my life there — 53 years. (The Marines brought my hubby to California from Pennsylvania.) Well, my daddy is turning 80 this December, so we will be flown in as a surprise for him. Plus, a major party! I probably won’t be decorating my home this year as we will be gone to Cali! However, my mom knows how to deck the halls and I will be helping!

  9. Heather F says:

    Mother makes Christmas…I’ve been reading your blog for so many years now, it breaks my heart to hear how upset Finley is about his father’s poor choice. One thing I do know is that you are a fantastic mother! Finley is so lucky to have you. I know that you will think of some new fabulous Christmas morning tradition to begin with your son. It won’t alleviate Finley’s hurt heart totally, but at least Finley will know that YOU are always there for him. Really, it’s Mark’s loss. You are lucky you never married that poor excuse of a man, but got away with the best part of him-Finley.

  10. Finally! I can comment! am having a few internet/laptop problems! OK! keeping it brief,I loathe and detest Hannah already,Karma will come and bite the pair of them on the arse sooner or later,you my friend are the best Mummy in the world and Finn will remember your selfless behaviour forever,rise above it Darling you are doing fabulously xxx

    1. chrissie says:

      Couldn’t agree more ! we all love and admire you Alison and you and Finn will always share the closest of bonds. A pox on them ! XXX

  11. I know that you will make a perfect Christmas for Finn. I am so sad for him, but it will probably be better for you, eventually.

  12. Anna Marie says:

    Mark and Hannah’s loss, all I can say. You’ll have a wonderful Christmas, and Finn will too!

  13. Brunette says:

    I die for that little peridot green dress from Modcloth linked at the bottom. If only I weren’t 6ft tall and deep-bosomed. I am forever barred from ready-made dresses. *sigh*

  14. Carlie says:

    I love, love, love your idea of Mother Christmas. Makes me happy right down to my toes. We do it all…why shouldn’t we have a little credit!

  15. Rashmi says:

    Loads of love to you and Finn!! You guys dont need that lily livered spineless ex-father for your christmas!!

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