It’s been an odd few weeks. As if the reality of what life will now be like has finally hit home and I find myself not quite knowing what I am for. Of course, life itself is going on: Finn appears home a few times a week with news of new girlfriends and WWE kerfuffles and the cat has either learned how to open the fridge or I am living with a relentlessly hungry home intruder. Damn him and his yearning for mozzarella.
And me? I’m quiet and muddled, with so very much to do. Much of my to-do list consisting of self-inflicted musts, almost no-one else will notice if I decide to throw in towel! But I am a woman possessed. Sweeping through rooms and websites, pulling out cupboards, inspecting troublesome code and chasing Christmas hither and thither, for he is proving to be something of a slippery customer this year and I keep lying awake in the middle of the night telling myself that I MUST GET A GRIP.
So, a grip I am going to get. Mark has bossily informed me that I am not to go mental this Christmas. (He seems to forget he is not, and never has been, my husband). And Finn has announced that he doesn’t want ANYTHING at all, which is frankly something of a situation because how is a Mum supposed to delight her child come Christmas morning if he refuses to be delighted? Finn clambered into the loft in search of the tree, I had to run out and buy new lights as it seems that we chucked them out again last year and I have had a serious word with Meep, (the cat adopted for everyone but me and who now finds himself dabbling in my eccentricities on a daily basis) and told him there will be hell to pay or a place booked in the naughty cats home if he decides to harass my baubles, for n’er a woman wants her baubles messed with now does she? So yep, there we have it: Christmas boxed!
In the meantime, there is life to be lived and puzzles to be solved. In the corner of the room stands a bundle of twigs liberally wrapped in fairy lights that keep to their own schedule. Twinkling into life at 3.30pm as dusk starts to settle and switching abruptly off with neither rhyme nor reason when they have decided it is time for me to go to bed. And so, to bed I go, utterly bewildered by why the most ordinary of battery powered string lights refuse to abide by the simple instructions that are OFF and ON. Yes, it really is the oddest of times. I am running and taking long baths in my newly spruced up bathroom, where new spotlights permit forensic examination of my rapidly shrinking body, (and leave me feeling a little traumatised and frankly sorry for any man who dates to darken my door in the future, bless!). I have developed a twitch in my right eye and turn out to be spectacularly rubbish at dating, as I keep making the nicest of men cry, which can’t be a good thing in anybody’s book, so I am giving up for the moment because I am struggling to fathom the level of deep emotion they bring to my vintage plate and they no doubt, are struggling to understand my failure to launch myself head first into another relationship, when it becomes more apparent by the day that I am starting to enjoy my own renaissance and haven’t quite got room in my fuzzy head for anymore Tinder style shenanigans or the bruising of hearts still too obviously tender.
So here I am. Choosing me for now. Watching and loving The White Lotus (I hate to say it, but something inside me relates to Jennifer Coolidge’s character’s shy bewilderment), Am I Being Unreasonable and Stuck, reading and re-reading Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies and then sending myself out daily on mini-missions. For a fruit bowl to hold the endless clementines I am devouring. For a length of thin tinsel to fashion into a festive crown for the bust of a young girl sitting on my windowsill, for one perfect new addition to the Christmas tree (a fuzzy white felt bird with embroidered wings and a silver crown), for a magazine to be enjoyed with a perfect (Air-fryed!! I’m obsessed!) Camembert and crudites in the blissful silence of the house. Teeny little somethings irrelevant in the grander scheme of things but essential to a weary heart still not sure it is entitled to that which will soothe it in any given moment.
It is then, as I have said before both a Wintering and a renaissance. The turning in of a soul and the rejection of the kind of co-dependancy that has for too long been my undoing. It is a moment. A phase. A stilling of all that has been so constantly in motion. And of course, there are friends. And family. And those that have, in the midst of said Tinder shenanigans become friends. A calendar of lovely to-do’s and to-go’s that will see me through a Christmas so different this year: presents bought for just one boy, one Christmas Eve box packed and hidden away, no need for the Little Christmas we always had two days before the big day so we could celebrate it with Stevie too. Gaps in the schedule I both want to acknowledge by allowing them to remain empty and grateful to those who see them and offer to fill them with invitations and adventures at Christmas markets and art galleries.
At Christmas, it is harder to ignore the change time has weaved throughout the year, because personal tradition is so undone by what no longer exists and has to be re-invented. And let no-one ever tell you that it is easy to navigate the potholes created by sadness or crisis in the twelve months gone by. But we can choose not to rage against it, nor become too addicted to the taste of sorrow for what now will never be, and instead we can let ourselves string together the teeniest moments of twinkly joy like so many fairy lights until there is peace to be found sitting in their glow.
Today then. Another pot of chilli bubbling in anticipation of the arrival home of the child. He who will choose chilli over everything else I cook. This one a rich beef and mushroom affair for there were no tomatoes and I am a woman who holds no store by recipes. A stack of presents for said child to be wrapped despite his orders. The hall, stairs and landing to be vacuumed into fluffy carpeted submission and stock taken of what is left to be bought for each of the festive meals Finn has declared essential because I am permitted to mess with Christmas tradition in all matters other than the content of each meal over the holiday, which is apparently written in glittery pen on tinselled stone.
Christmas is the year’s full stop. A summarising, mesmerising. sentence of all that has gone before. Words carefully chosen and both poignant and all at once celebratory; wrapped in relief and gratitude and tied up always in hope. For we can never truly know whether this may be the last year we get to enjoy its particular plenitudes, even when it isn’t picture perfect and thus must be utterly committed to squeezing out every last moment of joy, just in case.
Woe betide though, the man, child or cat who decides to mess with my baubles.