As a child, December was my favourite month. From the 5th to the 9th, using all of my willpower, I used to save up my advent calendar chocolates. On the morning of the 10th, sleepy eyed, I would sit in between my parents as Mum would give me my birthday presents and I would indulge in the chocolates that I had been saving for my big day.
It was a magical month full of roast dinners and warm evenings sat in front of the fire next to my dad, or curled up on the sofa with my mum. Looking back to my childhood December was always a time I will associate with safety – nothing in my innocent bubble could be wrong… and Father Christmas was coming.
One Christmas, when I was about 10, I bought my mum a cd with a cover of Imagine. To my disbelief, Father Christmas gave me exactly the same cd! That evening, Mum and I climbed the ladder to my bunk bed, I popped the cd into the player, we lay down and listened to that song on repeat – magic.
Fast forward to the summer when I was 16, of course, my mum fell ill and had lost her hair by the winter. Determined as ever, she still made Christmas special with beautiful food and special memories. She still decorated the house with ornate decorations that we had collected over the years. There was still an element of magic, because she was magic. No one on the outside would have known what we were battling. She still enjoyed a glass of Bailey’s of an evening because “Oh it’s December”, she still cooked salmon on Christmas Eve, and lay an extra place at the dinner table on Christmas day for a welcome stranger. But I was so scared. We were all so scared.
Thereafter, December no longer brought that sense of magic. Along with the cold weather that I once loved so much, December brought with it the very real threat of neutropenia. It brought desperate contingency planning that if Mum got ill, a friend’s parents would be able to drive me to the hospital. It brought microwave meals that Mum could easily make herself if she were unable to get to the supermarket due to snow. Before long, December brought fear.
Last Christmas was the first without our Mum. As she taught us, through her unfaltering determination, we decided to carry on with Christmas. The tree went up as if it were prop for a change of scene on stage. The whole thing was a performance – a hollow and fragile production played by worn out actors. I cooked dinner for 5 people. It was just how my mum used to cook, it was perfect, and I hated every minute.
But Christmas of 2019 has been so completely different. First of all, I’ve been working and my job is fast paced to say the least. It seemed that It was only yesterday that my uncle drove me to London but before I know it it’s the 23rd of December.
This month has been filled with many a magical moment; from a party in central London, to cosy evenings at Peter’s house with our cousins, to a bottomless brunch and Winter Wonderland to celebrate turning 25.
Of course, December has not been without tears and there will be more to come, I’m sure. The pain still momentarily jars me when someone asks me why I’m not going back to Devon, or I hear about friends’ Christmas plans in France or Italy visiting their parents.
We aren’t going back to Devon this Christmas. We won’t walk down the driveway and see Mum’s light up reindeer propped up in the garden or her wreath hung on the front door. We won’t see the Christmas tree through the living room window and we won’t be welcomed by the warmth of the log fire.
Rather, Evee has come to my flat in London where a new wreath hangs on the door, and a squat little Christmas tree sits in the living room – perfect for us. My flatmate has made sure to cook a roast most Sundays for which I am so thankful for. And, unlike last Christmas I’ve enjoyed going shopping for the people closest to me. There’s no pretending this year, we are feeling what we are feeling and this Christmas is for us. We still enjoy a glass of Bailey’s, we are still going to have salmon on Christmas eve and we are still going to lay a place at the table for a welcome stranger.
I wake up in the night sometimes. Evee sleeping beside me and Daisy purring peacefully at the bottom of the bed. I realise that those distant feelings that I’ve longed for since I was a child have slowly tiptoed their way back in to our lives – I feel warm, cosy and safe. Once again, December is our friend and I know Mum would be so happy for her girls.
Merry Christmas, everybody x