Every year, at the beginning of Decmber, in an effort to quash some of the excitement, I tell the children that our Christmas tree and our decorations will not be making an appearance until the weekend before the big day. Every year I am determined not to clutter the house up, not to wind them up beyond what can be borne by their parents, to play it down, just a little bit. Every year, I fail.
Every year, it gets to the last week of term, I’ve done all the shopping I’m going to do, presents are resting, hiding in places I know I will forget, and I give in to the call of the tree, the tinsel, the baubles and lights; I give in the to the puppy dog eyes, and out they come. The dusty boxes are wrestled out of their year long resting place, the unsticky tape is unstuck; half forgotten treasures are discovered again with each softly crumpled scrap of long-folded tissue paper.
None of my decorations are antiques. Some of them are gaudy plastic. Many of them, if not most, were a wedding gift from my sister-in-law. Sets of four now have only one remaining, somewhat bizarrely, one of the most elegant, a deep blue pearlised bauble, is plastered with stickers from a long lost comic. The price tag on the boxes speaking of the passage of years.
These days, A and L have taken responsibility for constructing the tree, instructions in one hand and tinsel in another, tripping over each other in their desire to find the lightbulb that spoils the set, while Sam retreats, uneasy in the disorder, swinging between denial of change and a desire to open every door on the calendar and declare the festivities open.
And this year, standing proudly in a row on top of my bookshelf is a collection all the more precious for its increasing fragility, its increasing rarity. On top of my bookshelf sit the cards they made me in Decembers gone past, the products of a primary education given over to a week (at least) of glitter and glue.
Each one of them stands silent testimony to the passage of time, the slow transformation from babies to child and beyond; each one of them, despite their identikit intentions, holding the personality of the maker. I make no apology. I have a favourite.
Its glitter may be coming off, and the maker may not have been able to write his name, not even in the most wobbly way. Its eyes are pointing in ever so slightly the wrong direction, its feet too delicate to ever hold its weight, but he holds my heart as the first one I ever received. Perfect because it just is.
Every year he reminds me of where we have been, and how far we have come. He reminds me of the hope at the start of the journey; the light in the darkness.