Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chiliad

Nan and BampapIt's not that I don't think of my grandparents every day of the year but Christmas seems to bring their presence closer and far more piquantly than at any other season. The effect is both more subtle and more overt.

All my childhood Christmases are tied up inextricably with my grandparents. They were part of the structure and the magic of the day. For me they were the pillars of Christmas. Me and my sisters would get up around 7am - we were amazingly restrained kids - and head downstairs where my parents would have prepared the presents. They were presented in huge plastic bags that featured a huge portrait of Father Christmas on them. Lord knows where my parents had obtained them from. My memory tells me that the bags were enormous - positively cavernous - but logic now tells me I was just very small and my eyes were seeing everything through Christmas-goggles.

Once the presents were all unwrapped we'd have a quick breakfast - all eaten mechanically; who can concentrate on food when you are surrounded by so much Christmas loot? In those days there were no Christmas song compilation CDs or YouTube... in our house it was Radio 1 or nothing and every year the old Christmas favourites would be wheeled out and broadcast, usually by Terry Wogan or Dave Lee Travis. Slade, Wizard, John Lennon and for some reason "The Sun Has Got His Hat On"... not sure why that old war time song was played every Christmas but it was and yet strangely does not feature on any Christmas compilation that I can find.

About 10.30 my granddad, Bampap, would arrive to drive us all up to my Nan's - my sisters and I were allowed to choose one present to take with us (mine was always a Lego set). And that for me was the start of Christmas Day proper. My Nan's house would be strung about with colourful paper decorations and all their cards - hundred of them - would be carefully sellotaped in pleasing patterns on the glass panels of all the doors in the house. The grown-ups would have a quick drink and chat while we kids sat impatiently waiting for the go ahead to play with our presents - like I said, we were amazingly restrained. If we were really lucky Father Christmas would have delivered a few extra presents for us at my Nan's but even if not the best present of all was just knowing we were going to be here for the next 2 days.

Just after 11am all the grown-ups - barring my Nan - would head off down the pub. My Nan would stay behind to cook the Christmas meal and look after me and my sisters. My memories of this time are very happy: the whole day still ahead of us, a new Lego set to build and lots of jolly, friendly programmes on the TV and my Nan in her absolute element. Her time at the pub would come on Boxing Day when my parents would stay behind and look after us but Christmas Day itself was just us kids and Nan and the gradually deepening aromas of chicken and turkey being slowly roasted.

As I got older I began to get curious about "the pub" - what happened there, what they did - and indeed as I got older I soon got to the age where the Lego dried up and we were allowed to join the grown-ups at the pub. I won't lie; it was a disappointment. I've never been a pub person and although it was jolly and fun it was never Christmas in the way it was in those early years when it was just us and Nan and Christmas telly in her cosy front room.

The afternoon was usually a blur. The arrival of the Christmas meal seemed to take the brakes off the day and the afternoon and evening would always career away from me much too fast. We'd eat. Watch the Christmas film. My parents would both falls asleep on the sofa much to my Auntie Linda's mirth. We'd have a light tea and then Bampap would drive us home again, Christmas sadly, grievously over for another year. The only consolation was coming back to my Nan's again for Boxing Day.

I hope Karen and I give something of this type of Christmas to our boys. It's difficult. My Nan and Bampap knew so many people my sisters and I were overloaded with "aunts" and "uncles". My boys have precious few so Karen and I work hard to pick up the shortfall. Those Christmases of my childhood are long gone. They live only in my heart and head in pictures and sounds and smells that I cannot, with all the longing in the world, impart to my children. I just hope the pictures and sounds they are imbibing in these years will stand them in as good stead as my own and they will remember their childhood Christmases as lovingly as I remember mine.

And I hope you will remember yours that way too, both Christmases past and all Christmases to come.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

As a side-note you might like to know that this, dear readers, is my 1000th post.


18 comments:

John Gray said...

Nice remembered and observed ..merry Christmas

Steve said...

John: and to you too, thank you.

London City (Mum) said...

Wonderful memories! Enjoy the festivities and the family!

LCM x

Steve said...

LCM: wishing you a lovely Christmas too.

Gorilla Bananas said...

I would have guessed you were a Christmas person. And as the years go by, and your belly gets rounder, and your beard gets whiter, there'll be a ready-made part for you to play. What do you think of the gastro pub revolution?

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: anything that encourages people to soak up all the alcohol they imbibe can only be a good thing. And though my beard is indeed getting whiter my belly has yet to become even the slightest bit round. I fear I am destined to always be the elf and never the Santa.

the fly in the web said...

What wonderful memories....and yes, staying with your Nan would have been much better than going to the pub....
It's a great legacy they gave you, to try to give something of that feeling to your own children.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: they helped define Christmas for me in so many ways.

English Rider said...

Congrats on 1,000 posts. I think it's justifiable to have a traditional telling of your "Christmas, when I was young". it can enter into the legends of Christmas and be part of what your children remember, as much as a house, where not even a mouse was stirring. Children take on verbal memories as images, imprinted as if they remember them first hand. Why not give them that?
As to the sunshine song, I wonder if it's a little nod to the Pagan origins of a festival to celebrate that the days are getting a little longer and the sun will be returning.
Merry Christmas

Steve said...

English Rider: that's very true and I can recall my Nan telling me and my sisters about how times had changed since she was young... As for the song; that's a nice reason. I'm sure the Radio 1 DJs didn't think that deeply about it but that doesn't make it any less valid.

Nana Go-Go said...

Don't you or Karen's parents see the children? Lots of opportunity for building memories there. I absolutely love your Nan and Bampap's Aran jumpers. I wonder if your Nan knitted them - I bet she did!
Have a tremendously super-duper Festive Season, young fellow m'lad. See you on the other side (I mean 2014!).

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: we do hook up with the grandparents but, due to geography and distance, it is not as regular as any of us would like and certainly not as regular as I used to see my grandparents (which was weekly). I look forward to seeing you on the other side too... (don't go into the light)!

K Ville said...

I envy people with such wonderful memories. My head sees to have hung onto the stress and arguments, the moaning, the boredom. I'm sure there must have been some fun in there. We had those plastic bags too. A beautifully written piece Steve.

Steve said...

K Ville: I think my grandparents just exuded an atmosphere of jovial conviviality that was very catching...

Trish Burgess said...

What a heart-warming post. Thanks for sharing your memories x

Steve said...

Trish: a pleasure to have them read.

Being Me said...

What a fabulous idea your Nan had for displaying the cards. Brilliant! I shall do this next year (though we don't get hundreds... it's a sign of the modern times, hey) and will think of your grandparents when I do.

Lovely memories. I, too, wonder if my daughter's memories of her Christmases are going to fall short of all the fun and joy of my own. But going by the past few days, I am safely certain now that Christmas is as Christmas was: the magic and wonder of anticipation, the excitement of presents and then the fond kindness and thoughtfulness between loved ones we share the day with. It's all there for her too. As I'm sure it is with your boys.

Happy 2014 to you!

Steve said...

Being Me: we've had a great Christmas this year... something for everybody and relatively stress free. What more can you ask for? Except good friends... and I have those too. ;-) Wishing you and yours a very happy 2014 indeed. x