It’s the memories from that time that are often the most potent. Why is that? It represented a warmth, a belonging I yearned for. And yet I didn’t belong, not really. I was an interloper, an invited participant, yes, but one who was always under threat from intimate exclusion – in the family and not. But the details were joyous. The tree, (she tells me it has just gone up with H’s help or was it S’s – age or is it the usual maternal mix-up made her say the wrong name yesterday regarded who is getting a divorce and who isn’t making me blunder in) is up but not decorated and she is going to hang some wreaths on the doors today. I can see it all. I can transport myself there. The magic of it all. And I think we had snow the first year. The walk to the little church at the top of the road, the snow heavy on the fir trees. The candles on the table, the name cards, the smells of Christmas biscuits, the cod, the buttered-potatoes and all that chocolate. And all the men in dark suits and the woman in national costume. I couldn’t absorb it all. It is so quiet now. And yet I don’t mind. I like the peace and the contemplation and his pleasure in the simplicity of it. It is a balance. My appetite is different. I need more solitude.
He didn’t say no. He was open. I cried a little. Fear I think. I like to sit in there. The place was empty. Tea in a metal pot. A biscuit, for him, in cellophane. And she is sweet. They’re closing up for a week in January and going to London. I love London, she said, her face lighting up. An Aber she is not loyal. It’s drab. They’ve done nothing with Christmas. She needs the lights, as do I.
I wish you all a peaceful one. May there be spaces in between the eating, the games, the drinking and the wrangling for some thought – spared for those not celebrating. The lonely, the ill, the dying, the poor, the disenfranchised, the dispossessed, the incarcerated – let them experience some rest, if nothing else, and let there most of all be hope for all of us now and always.