I’m finally into single figures in my countdown towards December 21st, the shortest day; the day I hope will prove to be the turning point in my annual battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.) It’s an arbitrary landmark really and last year proved to be a false dawn as the effects of SAD affected me much more in January than in December.
Friday saw my happiest afternoon of this year, when we put up our Christmas decorations, culminating in the Christmas tree. I love to do this to a background of Christmas music.
Once I’ve finished decorating, I put out the room lights and just sit and look at the lighted tree, giving thanks that, whatever the problems of the past twelve months, I’ve reached my most light-filled time of year again.
Like many others, I suspect, I then dip into my store of special festive memories which always come flooding back: some sad as we remember special people who are no longer with us but also happier and even amusing Christmas times. Here are some of my memories.
I’ll never forget the Christmas when I was around fourteen years of age and helping my very long-suffering mother to make a Christmas cake and four Christmas puddings despite having forgotten to buy any extra eggs and so only having the exact quantity needed. Promising to be very careful, unfortunately I cracked four of the eggs into a bowl while the other two ended up on the floor! I fled pursued by angry words.
When I returned sometime later to try and make amends, I was drying the dishes when I noticed a scale pan full of dried fruit. When I enquired innocently what that was for, I had to beat another hasty retreat as my mother realised that, in her fury, she’d put the Christmas cake into the oven without any fruit inside it.
Another food related memory – which I very much fear may have happened the same year as the fruitless cake episode! – was when mum returned to work the day after Boxing Day leaving me to wash up after the dinner party we’d had the evening before with a much-loved great uncle and aunt.
I spent a long time washing, drying, putting away, then washing the next stack of plates and dishes. Finally, I’d finished and looked round the kitchen tired but satisfied with my work. Then I spotted another large saucepan on the stove. It was full of greasy water: mum had obviously left it soaking overnight. Tempted as I was to ignore it, I buckled down and cleaned it.
When mum came home, she was so pleased with all my hard work. Or at least she was initially. Some time later she came and asked what had happened to the saucepan on the stove. Proudly I told her how much time and effort had gone into cleaning it. Only to be told that the greasy content was actually ‘two days matured’ home made turkey stock which was going to be the base for a soup.
Somehow, we managed to get through a few more Christmases together before I left home to get married! For our first Christmas, Paul and I had a small tree which we spent a long, long time trying to wedge upright in a pail. Once we’d succeeded, Paul added the lights and then, although we were both tired and rather fractious, I was ready to decorate.
As some of the bottom branches had been forced upwards by the edges of the pail, I decided to cut a few off before I started. That was easily achieved but, unfortunately, at the expense of the coloured lights, the cable to which I’d cut straight through!
It’s so wonderful to have these (and many other) Christmas memories. Everybody has their own stories to tell and people have their own versions of the same events: which can lead to some animated ‘discussions’ at subsequent get-togethers.
This Christmas I hope to make some more memories to add to my collection, at the end of what has often been an isolating, painful and frustrating year.
As I approach the shortest day of the year and look forward to feeling I’m coming out of the depths of SAD, I’m rejoicing, both in the Christmas lights I’ve got at home and the inner light God provides every day of the year even when I sometimes find it hard to access it.
I hope your Christmas decorations will bring you joy, light and…. some wonderful Christmas memories.