I don’t feel festive yet. It’s weird this year. I’ve made lots of Christmas art (my day job is in a school), sung jingle bells approximately 12,142,243 times since November ended, and wrapped a whole lot of presents in brown and blue and red and green paper. But even still. I have a sneaking suspicion it might be the weather. It isn’t crisp enough. It doesn’t bite my hands on the way to the bus stop, redden my cheeks.
Maybe it’s that my family are a county and a country away, and I haven’t seen them in far too long. I’m going home on the 23rd. There’ll be a tree, my parents and my brother. My Nana. My friends, their babies. Five new people came out of my friends this year is a weird sentence, but a true one. Little lives began. And now they’re having Christmas for the first time.
They’ll learn about the magic, about being thought of. Presents carefully chosen, rewarding their role in the family. Their importance. And as they grow, they’ll start to give things back, more and more. And love isn’t about things. But sometimes, it is nice to get a trinket. Something symbolic. To remind you of your family. A friend. An amulet. Safe passage through the all-too-early dark.
Lights around the house to ward off night. There’s something pagan that clings to Christmas still. We huddle together, stringing fairy lights. Taking trees inside. Wrapping secret boxes behind closed doors.
And I still remember Santa visiting on Christmas morning when I was four, or maybe even five. My breath in the air, neck straining to the roof to look for Rudolph. The blue kangaroo the man in red gave me. And how special it was. Because it had been chosen just for me. I held it close. It’s in the attic of our old house now, blue fur patchy, still with gleaming eyes. I am a blue kangaroo. It says to me. I am a magic thing that Santa gave you. So many things are possible. It says. If you believe. Look at me. Kangaroos are not supposed to be blue, Deirdre. And here I am.
Tomorrow, in the school, we will sing carols. We will look at lights. We’ll celebrate the hard work that we’ve done to get to Christmas. This year was long, and some of us got lost. And some were born. There were happy things and there was sadness. And the Spring, Summer, Autumn stretch out in front of us. And then another Winter. And another.
But on the twenty-third, I’ll be beside my brother on a train. Moving away from real life for a short spell. To a harbour full of things that sparkle. Chocolate wrappers, sequins, eyes and smiles.
I don’t feel festive yet. But there’s a part of me that knows it’s coming. The certainty of that is gift enough.
Have a shining Christmas, I hope that there’s a candle in the window to guide you to a place where you feel safe. I hope you think of others and are thought of. And most importantly, I hope that you all get blue kangaroos