Christmas is tricky. I’ve found it hard for me since I was a child and my parents split up, it all of a sudden was a dislocating horribly alien timestamp every year in the calendar. I remember the first year they’d split up my mum said dad could come over in the morning. There was so much crying and misery at how much everything was entirely fucked up it didn’t happen again. He had got better presents than her I think, on reflection she had no proper job and no money so that’s really no wonder, nevermind the chaotic backstory. Anyway it didn’t happen again and we ended up shifting between family friends and our grandparents on the day in the future. It never felt properly very Christmas-sy again for a long time, no special place mats, an underlying sadness, everything took so much longer on the day, it lost its bright, stifling almost. I can’t even get into the bits in between that and now, but it had for a period suddenly felt more, more substantial and happy, like I was a part of something. Now it’s the same, but a different decade.
The first Christmas I spent as a single parent I remember the drains outside in the back garden blocked (no surprise, like fucking clockwork I noticed they had blocked again yesterday) a big van pulled up on Christmas Eve while my cousin and I wrapped the stocking gifts at the Christmas table. The children and I went to really close family friends on Christmas day for the dinner. It was ok. The food was fantastic and the company was fun up until my friends elderly mother said some incredibly kind words during a quiet moment while we sat alone in the kitchen and I literally felt like I’d been punched and winded and just wanted to burst into tears.
The second time the drains blocked this year, I’ve just remembered, the man that sorted them out and then asked what ended up being the wrong question shook my hand and said ‘all the best to you, you’re having a shit year’ (2019 has been all sorts of fucked up. again)
God I could keep going about how 2018’s Christmas compared to this (an entire Christmas dinner purchased to heat up from M&S for me and the kids) and this year: I actually cooked! It felt like real progress (I love cooking usually but it’s ALOT on your own. This year, I was in bed by 8.30pm)
Before dinner yesterday, Ruby and I walked the dog, I’d done her hair and been caught breathless by the colour of it in the light. We were surrounded by robins singing the entire time we walked. I place probably more than usual significance in this. Then we saw a butterfly. I looked up the symbolism of course when I got back. It was fairly general but encouraging. At one point a robin came so close to us while sitting on a tree stump and sang so loudly Ruby turned to me and said ‘I think that is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen’.
Last night George hauled his new bean bag up to my room and nested in it to sleep. He fell off numerous times and rearranged himself. He was happy. I was happy.
Today was flat. I had expectations it would be. I had places I had been invited to. I just couldn’t quite shift the knowing that when the children left the house to have their ‘second christmas’ I didn’t want to be around any other people when my energy felt like this. It’s loneliness of course. Of a very particular kind, intertwined both with grief and knowing what was, but you don’t want to be with anyone else, so it’s loneliness of a despairing self defeating kind.
After they left I ran a bath (after picking my way over the paint on the stairs that is falling from the ceiling because THERE’S ANOTHER FUCKING LEAK). I fell into a deep and ready asleep after that and then woke to hunger. For the last 30 minutes of semi awake I was imagining what I would eat from the fridge. I ended up having a great plateful of leftovers and fed some to the dog. I looked over the plants downstairs and read a little of my book. I have things I want to make, a course I am in the middle of, I’ve got stuff I had planned on doing, but I honestly couldn’t concentrate on words or process. I can’t explain it, it’s not simply a lack of motivation, it’s a displacement of self. I made a hot water bottle and got into bed and slept again. I woke up to George calling me, except he wasn’t there, I had imagined it. I knew I had to take the dog out for a stretch and pulled on my thickest coat and walked to the park at dusk, the sky was honestly cerulean blue, the clock in the park lit up. I saw families through the window eating by candlelight, great swathes of recycling in the bins, I saw a mother and her two children walking back from the park in christmas onesies and coats, I saw a light fitting in a lounge that was the same as my grandparents had in their dining room at Oakdene. I saw a dog with a lit up collar and a child with light on his scooter zip around the tennis courts. I slipped in the waterlogged mud and thought about other boxing days walks I had taken and who with. I thought about all the people we had lit individual candles for at the dinner table yesterday who aren’t with us anymore.
On my way to the co-op I bumped into the same family I am incredibly good friends with who hosted that first year who were honestly delighted to see me and the dog. I was invited over. I hadn’t even brushed my hair, it was pulled up, I had on no makeup, wearing pyjamas under my coat. I said this and they looked at me like I was nuts, ‘anyway you come would be great’ I was reassured, ‘we’ll take the dog, see you in 5’. I quickly popped into the shop, to see one of the cashiers who’d once asked me how I was and then when I’d come back with ‘honestly?’ replied ‘yes, honestly’ and I’d said ‘really fucking shit my entire life has hit the fucking skids.’ He nodded at me, probably wondering how life could still be a car crash and how I could still look so bad. I sat at their kitchen table again and had a small glass of red. I told them about the robin. And my friend’s husband said ‘that’s like out of the secret garden… the robin out of the secret garden,’ and I remembered, that was my nana’s favourite book.