If there's one thing I've learned through having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome it's that I have to conform to the limits of my body, whether I like it or not. Which to be honest probably isn't such a bad thing, as otherwise I would probably gone through several tanks of petrol by now, spent a small fortune and run myself ragged, just getting stuff ready for Christmas. I had made the old mistake of setting myself an impossible 'to do' list for the upcoming weeks. With my brother-in-law and his fiance coming for Christmas lunch, I decided that I would set myself the goal of redecorating not one, not two, but three rooms before Christmas. They're not coming any more but I still decided that this was necessary. I also seem to have promised no less than five people that I will accompany them Christmas shopping, which works out to one day out a week for the next five weeks, just Christmas shopping! I was full of good intentions to make my own Christmas tree decorations this year too. I checked out Spotlight and the $2 Shop for supplies but I confess to taking the cheat's way out. By the time I had collected everything I needed to make my decorations I realised it was going to cost me more than the barrel of 60 decorations I had seen on special for $19.99 in the Ezibuy catalogue. I'm afraid Ezibuy won.
I admit, it felt a bit like a cop out. After all, I was on a mission to create the perfect Christmas. To me, this meant immersing myself and my family completely in 'warm fuzzies'. I had visions of the boys and I spending cosy Sunday afternoons at the table, singing along to our corny Christmas CD's and making tree decorations together. A lovely thought Penny, but get real. You have 11 and 13 year old boys. You know what's going to happen. Liam would refuse point blank and say it was girly. Ali might give it a go and make one before losing interest and finding something - anything - else to do. Despite my best intentions I knew what would happen - I'd be left to take care of the whole mess. The boys love helping me decorate the Christmas tree each year, but actually MAKING the decorations? That would involve sitting still for far too long! And at the end of the day, the only person who really cares what the tree decorations actually look like is me. Simply HAVING a tree in the lounge for a few weeks is enough for the boys. If signifies to them that Christmas is coming and it's having that tree there that is special to them, not the things hanging off it.
For me, putting up the Christmas tree meant it was my birthday! I absolutely loved our Christmas tree when I was little. We brought out the same decorations year after year and the tree was just a glorious mass of shambolic colour. A friend of ours couldn't understand why her young son wasn't interested in her Christmas tree, but loved ours. We knew why. At their place, he wasn't allowed to touch the Christmas tree, let alone help decorate it. Everything about their tree had to be perfect, from the colour scheme to each artfully placed bauble. The tree wasn't about him, it was all about her. Years later when my own kids came along, I remembered that and from the time they were big enough to stand on their own two feet they were allowed to decorate the Christmas tree however they liked. Even though it used to kill me watching them! Half the tree would be bare and the other half would be boughing under the strain of having half a dozen decorations hung on each branch. But the important thing was, they thought it was beautiful and it made them happy. The only time I was allowed to intervene was right at the end, when it came to putting the star on the top of the tree as the boys were too small. But now Liam is so much taller than me, I have a feeling I'll be out of a job this year!
So thanks to Ezibuy, my Christmas stress levels are already dropping. Even one less thing to do is helpful at this time of year! And I will decorate - but only as and when I feel up to it. I don't know what I was thinking. As long as there was beer and enough people for a family game of cricket, my brother-in-law would have been content. I'm sure he wouldn't even notice whether the walls were a different colour. Once again, the only person who would have cared what colour they were would have been me. It's daft isn't it? I mean, we have people dropping in all year round and don't give a hoot about the decor so why is it we feel that everything has to be perfect at Christmas? That all of a sudden things aren't 'good' enough any more? I think I must have watched too many Christmas movies over the years!
It's funny what you remember about Christmases past. I used to think my parents were dreadfully mean because they would only let me open ONE present on Christmas morning. After that, I wasn't allowed to open any more until after everyone had let their Christmas dinner go down. Sometimes that wasn't until 4 o'clock, by which time the suspense was killing me! Only then was I allowed to play Santa, divvying up all the gifts into piles and placing them one by one at the recipients' feet. Then we all had to take it in turns to open our gifts, so that everyone's attention was focused on that one person. Of course now I can see what it was all about. Mum and Dad were simply prolonging the anticipation. This alone made the day better for everyone, especially me. The excitement wasn't all over in five minutes, in a flurry of ripped wrapping paper. It meant that Christmas Day wasn't all about the presents. It was about simply being together. With the added bonus of being able to eat and drink as much as we liked all day!
As for the presents, I've lived through 36 Christmases now and the ones I remember most aren't the ones which cost the most money, but the ones which made me laugh. Like the massive undies my Aunt Min used to buy for me unfailingly, every year. As I got bigger, so did the knickers. Bridget Jones had nothing on me! 'I didn't know which size you were, so I got you two!' she would explain, as I unwrapped my neck-high undies, one in size 18, the other in size 20. I was 12 years old at the time! But that was one of the things I loved most about her. That and the fact she would make me an enormous trifle every year, even though I couldn't stand trifle! 'Just for you, Ducky!' she would say with a beaming smile. I would dutifully force down my trifle but I didn't really mind. It was all part and parcel of Christmas and I would have had it any other way.
So I've given myself a good talking to and am going to do my best to be a relaxed host this Christmas. The kids know we don't have a money tree at the bottom of the garden and their Christmas lists are mercifully short so far - although it's early days, there's no guarantee they will stay that way! They also know to expect 'recession size' stockings from Santa this year but they say they don't mind and I actually believe them. As long as we have Cliff Richard singing 'Mistletoe and Wine' and Mum and Grandma dancing around the kitchen while peeling potatoes and glazing the ham, it will feel like Christmas to us all!