Me and Christmas haven't always been the best of buddies.
Oh it was all very lovely at the beginning, when I was a mere speck of dust on the sideboard of life; when the idea of a jolly red-faced bloke in a too-tight red fur-trimmed suit flying gaily through the sky with a bulging sack of goodies just for me was just the ticket to get me through those chilly winter months, but later? As the Mars stockings and boxes of Maltesers dwindled and the Petty Peach perfume lost its allure (sadly the American Tan tights remained but then what do great Aunties really know of their great Neice's personal preferences?) I began to notice things about Christmas that I really didn't like very much at all.
Number One on my Cross List was that that it only stayed for one day.
Number Two was that my relatives were also only in one place and very (bordering on embarrassingly) happy for that same one day.
Number Three was that come Boxing Day all we got to eat were leftovers from the happy days of Yore (or the day before) which for me just rubbed salt into the gaping wound of Not-Christmas-Day-Anymore and all who'd merrilly sailed in her.
When I got married I thought I'd at least have a bit more of an extended family to share some festive warmth with but it turned out (and turned out rather too late for me to change them for different ones) that they actually didn't like Christmas very much and after everyone had finished swapping receipts for presents that nobody liked or wanted very much, the rest of the Day I spent back at home pulling crackers with the dog until I needed to be someplace else with a vat of sherry and the TV remote at my (own) disposal.
Having a baby would change it all, though. Christmas is for children, isn't it? It was going to get all red and green and snowy and twinkly, throngy and merry again and if I wasn't very much mistaken, all the warmth and cheer was going to return to my erstwhile grey, dank festive seasons.
And it did, for the first three years we spent as a Happy Family, when we left out carrots for Rudolph and mince pies for Santa and wrote letters asking for presents and sent them to the North Pole. When we visited grandparents and toddler friends and had Christingle services at Nursery School and made proper puddings and cakes and decorated the tree in the most haphazard of ways imagineable. But it didn't last.
Christmas as a single parent is probaly the most depressing time of the year imagineable. It's Up There with Birthdays, Mothers/FathersDays, High days and Holidays, but Christmas with all its warmth and magic, for the recently divorced, is like wearing beautiful soft socks but having pine needles stuck to the insides. And even though it's probably not their intention; nobody but NOBODY understands how lonely and depressing it really is. The mere mention of 'what are you doing for the holidays' would make me freeze. Should I gloss over it and say 'oh you know, the usual' or should I say 'actually I don't have my little girl this year, so I'll probably just have a sandwich and watch the telly'? Latterly I discovered the Art of Turning Conversations such as these as asking the Asker what They were doing instead (which everyone wants to talk about anyway - nobody's interested in anyone else's sadness at Christmas).
And nobody asks you round. It's such a closed time, a family time, and if you're on your own then that's your lookout. (That's how it felt to me, anyway).
And then I met this guy. At Christmas too. And I was such a bah-humbug cynic by then that even though we first kissed on Christmas Eve and okay, it WAS like being kissed by an Angel, I still didn't believe it was anything magical. It was just one of those things. Nothing was ever very magical for very long after all. Boxing Day would still turn up, invited or not.
But it did turn out different. And something so unexpected and so unprepared for and so not on any kind of wish list I'd ever written; it started to last, beyond Boxing Day and beyond New Year and then 12 months later it was happening all over again - and the following year the same thing happened - until this year we'll have been together 7 years. And I can still feel that Christmas Eve tingle when I think about it, or look at his cheeky smiling eyes, and I don't even wonder what I've done to deserve him. We simply deserve each other, and you can make of that what you will and tie a jolly festive ribbon round its neck while you're at it!