The Ghosts of Christmas past. 

Perhaps somewhere in a different time we share Christmas day together. You bring your family. We share tales of growing up separately but bound by blood. Perhaps it begins an annual tradition of meeting and exchanging gifts and sharing each other’s lives. 

Meanwhile in a different realm I bring home a special guest. We laugh at the repeats on the TV and bicker over Brussel sprouts.

Later after you’ve had a glass or two and your pipe you fall asleep in the armchair, your cracker hat slightly askew as you snore gently . I look at you and think “when did you get old?”. I remember you carrying me up the stairs to bed in your arms when I fell asleep downstairs. So strong then but now you resemble an old comfy arm chair yourself. The children look at you and giggle. I shush them anxious not to stress the fragile brokered  Christmas peace. 

In still another time, she is there.  Laughing with the children, making merry with the sherry. Making us scream with laughter at her awful charade reenactments. I dream she has had a happy life, a life of peace and wishes fulfilled. 

Lastly in another Christmas I bounce upon my knee a little one. I can see their tiny fingers and their rosebud mouth. They look at their siblings, desperate to join in the fun and excitement. “Soon” I tell them. “Soon you’ll be old enough”.
This Christmas will be a happy one. We have lots of blessings to be grateful for. We love our little family. I won’t feel anything amiss. 
But sometimes I wish the ghosts of Christmas past would collide. 

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Too much of a good thing?

3.45pm Christmas Day  is said to be the optimal time for families to begin bickering amongst themselves. The presents have been exchanged and oohed and ahhed and “You shouldn’t have” over and copious amounts of food has been consumed and real life returns with a vengeance. As if we buy into the lie that Christmas must be perfect and our personalities must be squashed and sat upon until we are unrecognisable to ourselves.

It seems the pressure of striving for perfection coupled with added stress of protracted family time reignites the powder keg of egos setting sparks and words flying like weapons.

Biblically speaking Iron sharpens iron but if this is so why does it hurt so much to have our abrasive edges rubbed off? Is it the sacrificing of egos or dying to self that causes our pain to spring to the surface like a blushing bruise?

Every single example I can bring to mind of people I struggle to get on with the uppermost feeling is initially regret and  then hatred of what they bring out in me. They literally bring out my worst. They set me on edge.

However if I were able to take a more balanced view perhaps it would be apparent that they require more time and effort on my part and that is why I resent them and feel guilty about them.

The effort involved to smile pleasantly while making what seems to me inane conversations, the literal biting of my lips to bite back retorts that come to mind when they tear down those I care about cost me. Yet it is nothing in comparison to the allowances and grace that my loving Saviour extends to me several times a day.

Happy  Christmas all x

Joy in the Season.

It was wonderful today to watch my youngest Isabella being a shepherd in her school nativity play. She is 7 now and the last year she has changed so much in terms of her confidence. Whereas a few years ago she cried the entire length of her play and was thoroughly overwhelmed, today she was happy and smiley and full of joy. She only had a small role but and I know I’m obviously biased here she gave it her all. I’m so proud of her and so blessed with all my children.

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Isabella.

The sadness of the rain (Wed Fiction)

The rain is incessant here today. Great globules of glistening raindrops that hurl themselves in a fury at the windows. An arc of lightning flashes in the clouds illuminating the rain-sodden landscape. Then, a peal of thunder so loud I almost consider diving under my bed until I catch hold of myself and remember I’m not a child any more. I count the seconds till it comes again so I know how close by it is. It’s surely not far. Perhaps as far as the bridge in the village.

I remember being children and hiding under the covers, quaking with fear , attempting to laugh each other out of our terror when the thunder came. He used to say it was God moving the furniture and I used to tell him “Sshhhh” . It felt irreverent somehow. He’d pull a face mockingly but then hold his tongue . We were always close, even though he was younger. I used to pretend he was mine. I never told him that.

This Christmas I am alone. My friends, so steadfast at first, have been slowly reabsorbed into the bosom of their own families and my parents have mercifully died. I don’t mind being alone, truly.  It’s  easier than pretending I am over it or it doesn’t hurt any more.

I sit by the fire and  watch Songs of Praise on Christmas Eve, my one concession to the season. I go to bed early and lay awake for hours, thinking about him. I finally drift off and am woken from random dreams by the clatter of the letterbox.

The wind is always a stealthy visitor to my cottage attempting to gain entrance wherever it can, the gaps around the windows, blowing through the key holes like a desperate invisible guest.

I light  another fire in the living room shivering as I do so in my feeble dressing-gown. I open the card that has been  lying on the mat and add it to the collection on the mantelpiece. It is from Mrs.Roberts next door. She must have dropped it in on her way to church.

In the beginning, she  seems glad to have me for a neighbour until she realises how standoffish I am. She calls me a loner and she’s given up trying to get me to go next door for a meal. I know she is just trying to be neighbourly but I don’t want the commitment of letting her close to me.

Some time later I sit down and get on with the job in hand. No huge Christmas dinner for me. Mine will be a microwave meal. Why go to fuss when there is only me to eat it?

I lay the present on the paper and cut it to size, neatly wrapping it and attaching the tag. I sit and chew the end of the pen for a minute while I think of what to write. In the end I  write his name and a kiss.

The first Christmas I  spent ages trying to decide on the perfect gift. That was in the beginning when I was hopeful. This year it is just a token gift. I write the card and then balance the present on the top of the pile. Five gifts. One for every year he has been missing.

And… Breathe…

Thankfully it’s now the evening of Boxing Day and things are winding down with regards to the Christmas celebrations. We had yesterday to ourselves other than church, which was a real treat as it meant we could do everything to our timescale as opposed to that of guests. Come the evening we were all settled in front of a roaring log fire, just happily being together.
Today was spent visiting family. After all the mad rush to be ready in time for Christmas it’s a relief to have it over to a certain extent.

Why do we feel so much pressure to have everything perfect this time of year? To buy the perfect presents? Cook the perfect meal?
I don’t know but it’s difficult to not give in to the hype sometimes.

It’s all relative though isn’t it when you think that some people don’t have anything this time of year and thousands of children are homeless.

Makes me count my blessings.

Hoping that you all enjoy and survive unscathed the rest of the holidays!

Till next time.

Jesus is always the reason for our Season.

It’s Christmas Eve and there are no chestnuts roasting on our fire. There’s no sugar plums dancing in the visions in our heads. But there is an air of happiness in our household. Despite the children’s petty squabbling sometimes there is excitement and anticipation in the air.

Gratitude is the watchword. Gratitude that we’ve made it through our own personal annus horribilus, although that may still be to come.
Gratitude for my new friends and followers on here who have brought inspiration and warmth into my blogging life.

However you feel about Christmas and whether you celebrate it or not or believe it all grew out of a pagan festival, we will be celebrating Jesus. Scholars are actually of the opinion that Jesus wasn’t born in December but that his birth date was moved to line up calendar issues.

It doesn’t matter to me. I will be celebrating Jesus. His understated birth in a smelly stable. The gifts the wise men brought that point towards his death and burial and his eventual resurrection.

Without Christ there is no Christmas because he didn’t stay that baby in the manger but grew up to become a loving man who died to save all of us because He loves us , whether we acknowledge it or not. Son of God, Son of man, Redeemer, Wonderful Counselor. Almighty God.

Happy Christmas guys

Suzi. Xx

A small dash of magic. (Wed Fiction)

Emily hid behind the rails of children’s clothes and peeped out shyly. The giant Superstore clad in all its Christmas attire was pretty daunting to a young girl like her but her gaze was fixed on something taking place in the parking lot and her eyes glistened in rapture. The car park was frantic with cars this time of year and reckless shoppers had abandoned their vehicles, double parked and run inside to grab their last-minute gifts. The poor staff member who had the unenviable job of manning the customer tannoy was beside herself trying to keep up with the flow of car recall announcements. There was only a short time left till closing and tempers were fraught. So much for the season of goodwill.

Emily, however, was watching a man in the Car park. He looked to be trying to direct the traffic. He wore no staff uniform but carried an air of respect. He was about 5 foot 10 with a white fluffy beard and a tummy that spoke of many mince pies. He wore a red hat and braces and his hands were thrust into red woollen gloves.

Emily’s mother finally caught sight of her in her hiding place and after admonishing her for causing unnecessary worry followed her gaze through the decorated window. “Come on Ems, we’re done here and I still have to call by Niemans before we can even contemplate going home”.

Unwillingly Emily allowed her mother to prise her away and out of the shop. Emily wanted to see more of the man. She was certain she knew who he was.

After five minutes fruitless searching they had to admit they couldn’t remember where they had parked the car and Emily’s mum surveyed the snaking queue of traffic at the car park exit anxiously. She tried pressing and repressing the key fob in the hopes it would turn on the lights and give a clue to the car’s whereabouts. No Joy. By now her mother was in full panic flow and Emily, sensing the need for intervention, turned on the spot and caught the eye of the man she’d been studying earlier.

He paused to dispense some last-minute advice and made his way over to them. “Excuse me Mrs.” he began, winking at Emily as he spoke.”Can I help you at all? You look a little in need of help”. “Look Mr.Klaus” she said looking at the badge that was pinned to his braces, “I’ve got a thousand and one things to do, I’ve got a daughter who needs feeding. I appreciate you’re trying to help but it’s not needed. I can manage perfectly well”. At the mention of the stranger’s name Emily’s eyes had widened even further.

She tapped her Mother’s arm impatiently to try to get her attention. “Mrs.Evans, it is Mrs.Evans, isn’t it? he began , “It’s Christmas Eve, it’s late, you’re tired. Please let me help you. It would be my pleasure and more to the point it’s my job.”

Protesting feebly she allowed herself to be propelled across the car park with Emily in tow. He showed no hesitation and seemed to know exactly where he was going. “Ta da” he said, pointing at her forlorn looking car. “I believe this is yours”. “But how could you possibly know that? I didn’t get the chance to tell you”.

“Mrs.Evans , I make it my business to know things. That’s the line of work I’m in, but if you want a simpler answer lets just say it’s magic”.

How much is too much?

As Christmas fast approaches, seemingly quicker each year, it won’t be surprising to you that I’ve been anticipating the cost of the season of goodwill. Why is it as parents we feel we almost have to throw money at our kids for them to enjoy it? It doesn’t help that we are bombarded with images of the perfect Christmas coming at us from a multitude of adverts every day. Each advertisement seems to portray a happy family, children rosy-cheeked with sumptuous food on the menu and the latest toys and gadgets under the resplendent Christmas tree.

But what of those people who will have nothing this year? As the Band Aid single asked “Do they know it’s Christmas at all?”. We buy into, literally sometimes, what the media tells us is important. And forget the true meaning of Christmas. As a Christian I believe Jesus is the reason for the season and my family and I will be celebrating his birth. But even if you don’t believe the wonderful Christmas story isn’t Christmas about sharing and helping our fellow man?

I was feeling guilty that my husband is out of work so therefore Christmas will be a smaller occasion this year money wise but when I think of those children who will have nothing at all and will be scavenging rubbish tips for food and things to sell it brings our own Christmas celebration into sharp relief. It is just one day. A special day yes but it feels wrong for a percentage of the world to have so much more than the rest of it. Who is to say we should have and they shouldnt?

One Christmas I worked on a supermarket checkout over the festive season and could not believe my eyes at the cost going through the tills. Some families had 2 trolleys full, were spending hundreds of pounds and then came in to repeat the scenario for New years  ,. This is not a lecture. I know people work very hard for their money and they are entitled to time off to enjoy it. But if we don’t start thinking about people in poverty who will?

When our children are older they wont remember the expense of their christmas day gifts, they wont appreciate us getting ourselves into debt to pay for it. They will remember the precious family time spent together.

Really this is a lecture to myself to keep myself in check. I could quite easily go overboard financially out of guilt this Christmas but it wont help me in the long run when I’m struggling to pay for it after.

So eat, drink and be merry by all means but take a moment to raise a glass to those who are unable to and maybe see what you can do in a practical way to help the have-nots. it is often said there is just one step needed for us all to be there. It could easily be us and not them. Pay it forward, surprise yourself by doing a random act of kindness and then keep it to yourself.

And lastly thank you for listening to my rant again

Till next time

NaBloPoMo.

The boy who could not be. (Fiction) Part 2 of A box by any other name.

The smaller box was about the size of a jewellers box and looked like a hastily wrapped Christmas present. Remarkably it had her name on it and looked easy to open. She slid it open and sighed.

Nestled in the small ring box was a wad of gaudy tissue paper. Initially Lucy thought it was empty but as she picked it up and shook it something small fell almost under her bed. She bent down to retrieve it. She held it in a pincer grip under the light and examined it. It was a brass looking representation of an angel, about an inch high. Not exact enough to be a brooch but not small enough to be a pin. Lucy turned it over expecting to see a made in Taiwan stamp, so cheap did it appear.

She stifled her disappointment. Since the arrival of these boxes months ago people were claiming their lives had been transformed. Some had given up work. Others had seemed to come into money very suddenly. Some had even taken the opportunities to throw off the shackles of an unsatisfactory marriage.

Trust her to get the dud. The booby prize. The cheap last cracker toy. She didn’t even believe in angels or Heaven and Hell. And if there was a God he was taking his sweet time coming to her rescue, in her opinion. Still, better keep it close. Who knew, it might bring some luck, and she tucked it into her pyjama pocket and went to sleep.

The next morning as she reluctantly opened her eyes and mentally calculated what lessons she had that day, Double French, yuck, very little seemed out-of-place. At least it was Friday and she could have a sleep in the next day or a morning in bed if she could get away with it. Her Father seemed unusually chipper as she sat down for breakfast, offering to cook for her and ruffling her hair. Wincing out of the reach of his hand and calculatedly treading the line between being out of his favour and getting some cash to buy sweets at the corner shop, she gathered her things together and iPod ear phones stuck firmly in shouted her goodbyes.

As she opened the front door she almost fell in again in surprise. There leaning against the door jamb and smiling down at her, was a young boy. He looked to be about the same age as her but there the similarity ended. She couldn’t help gasping and tried to turn it into a hasty cough. It was as if someone had taken all her boy band fantasies and rolled them up into one person. He was beautiful. She was confused for a second, asking herself why the postman was still staring at her and not handing over the post with a snarl like he usually did. But coming out of her reverie she realised he most definitely wasn’t their postman.

He still hadn’t spoken. Just stood there smiling and nodding, as if it was an everyday occurrence for a handsome boy to be on her doorstep. Debating inwardly that he must have the wrong house, she offered up a small “hello”. “Hi Lucy, I’m Michael. I was told to meet you here today”.

“As wonderful as that all is, Mike”… “Its Michael” he repeated firmly shaking her hand. “As wonderful as that all is, Michael, how do you know my name and why are you here?”. Lucy was baffled by his manners and starting to wonder what she was letting herself in for.

“Don’t you know?”, he asked in surprise. “Didn’t you get my box?”. “That was from you?”. “Of course, you didn’t think some strange alien had dropped it out of his spaceship did you?”.  Eyebrows raised, she had the feeling he was amused with her. She wasn’t sure she liked the sensation. “Of course not. Look, lovely as it is standing here chatting some of us have school to go to”.  “But don’t you want to know why I sent you the box?”. “If you want to tell me I’ve no objection to hearing it but make it quick, Mrs. Ferber is a right old stickler for punctuality”.

“It’s because you were lonely” he said simply. “That’s why I came, I couldn’t bear it any more, you not knowing how much you are loved”. Deciding he had completely lost the plot she hoisted up her rucksack without saying another word and pushed past him. “Lucy, wait, Whats wrong?”. Ignoring him she made her way up the road. He caught up with her at the junction and grabbed hold of her arm. He turned her around, her face was streaked with tears.

“Why would you say something ridiculous like that?”. “What makes it ridiculous?” he replied kindly. “You believe you have no value and you believe everyone else is more important. But you believing that doesn’t make it true.”. “Who are you? she pleaded.” “Lucy, I’m Michael, like I told you. I’ve known you always, even before you were born. Lucy, I’m your angel.”

Till next time.

PS, this is the second part of A box by any other name.

We live in a small town in Wales. It appears in the Doomsday Book and is rumoured to be the oldest town in Wales and also Merlin’s birthplace, if you believe the hype. The last few weeks the weather has been unpredictable. We always have a lot of rain but this week we’ve had unseasonably warm weather a few days.

My favourite season is Autumn, always has been. As a child I was fascinated by hunting for conkers in the local green spaces. We grew up in a flat in London and didn’t have our own garden but there were multiple parks and green areas around. The local vicarage grounds was a good hunting place and you were sure to come home with a carrier bag filled to the brim with shiny horse chestnuts peeping out.

I have always loved the way the leaves change colour from hues of green to beautiful red and orange and yellow shades. A myriad of colours. I like the fact that it’s cold enough to wear snuggly jumpers and warm boots but not usually cold enough to merit hat and gloves. I would love to visit New England and see the stunning Fall they experience. I love sitting in the coffee shop with friends, hands clasped around a warm beverage setting things to rights.

As I have got older I have learned to appreciate the other seasons . They are all beautiful in their own ways although Winter can feel very grey and depressing sometimes.

This is probably the first year in a long time I have made much more effort to enjoy all the seasons. Spring is a beautiful time of year, I am always glad to see the new buds emerging on the trees and the early spring flowers. One house we lived in always used to have a daffodil growing in December! Must have been confused poor thing. In Spring in Wales it is like the world is slowly coming back to life after a Winters nap. All green shoots and verdant longings.

The Summer this year has been unusually hot . This has meant lots of long walks, and beach climbs and blackberry picking. Time spent sitting out in gardens drinking coffee around the glowing fire pits. We camped on a lovely cliff top site for a week enjoying scorching weather, beach swims and cliff top picnics. As it was free swimming at the local pool for the children (a must when you have 4 kids!) we spent a lot of time there too.

Autumn started off quite mild but we are just beginning to experience a bitter change in temperature although the Sun is still trying to have its last hurrah! We live in a listed house with single glazed windows and large rooms so will be spending a lot of time at home in one room or cuddled up under blankets together, which is a lovely way to spend the time anyway.

As we approach Winter I am a little sad, relieved in a way because it has been a momentous year, but sad because everything outside looks so grey. The trampoline and garden the children usually play in will be neglected until after Christmas when the warmer weather sets in. Unless we have snow and this doesn’t happen much as we are quite near the coast. It does surprise us occasionally. We’ve had snow in June before!  In Winter in Wales most of the trees shed their leaves and after the joy of crunching through them in Autumn, everything looks bleak and stripped and empty and dirty.

But there is Christmas to look forward to. I love the children being home on holidays. Everything takes on a much more mellow tone as we just enjoy each others company.

So I suppose there is something to celebrate in every season but Autumn will always have my heart.

Till next time

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/daily-prompt-seasons-2/