It’s a pub question really. I’ve been asked it many times in my life and it’s always sparked off pleasant debate between friends.
In the past I think I’ve come up with all the obvious answers: Bethlehem around 0 AD, Avalon sometime in the Dark Ages, a safe distance from Pompeii in 79 AD... I’m sure we could all pick a historical time-frame that interests us on a personal level.
Since the death of my grandfather last Christmas – the last of my much loved grandparents – more and more I have found myself wishing I could leap back in time a far more modest amount of years. I find I am drawn far more than I used to be to World War II documentaries on television. Not out of any vicarious battle lust or schoolboy interest in fighter planes and war ships... but because the period is vividly associated in my mind with my Nan and Bampap (as we called them). It was a time when they were young adults and although they’d known each other a long time at this point their romance was only in its infancy.
I have old photographs of them taken in the 1940’s. They look both like and unlike the Nan and Bampap that I came to know and love after my birth in 1969. I find myself wondering what kind of people they were at this early and traumatic period in their lives. The world at war. Their hearts full of thoughts and hopes for themselves and their families – families I was 30 years away from being part of.
I would like to look upon them in colour – rather than the old black and white / sepia prints that I have in my possession. Would I speak to them? I don’t know. What could I say? Tell them I love them; who I am? I think in reality that would be impossible to do. So bittersweet. Sometimes I imagine myself catching up with my granddad during the war... pulling him to the ground as bullets strafe overhead; giving him a knowing look as he thanked me. A silly and embarrassing fantasy.
And then I would like to come forward in time a little bit. To Christmas sometime in the mid to late 70’s. Back when I was a kid and me and my 2 sisters, my mum and my dad would spend every Christmas and Boxing Day at my Nan’s house immersed in the effortlessly warm and joyous festivities that they seemed to weave around them every year. They were a big part of my childhood and teen Christmases. Inseparable in fact. I cannot approach a Christmas now without thinking of them and remembering all those Christmases gone by.
I wish I could see them again during this time. See myself with them. See myself with my whole family all around me. I would like to whisper invisibly into my own young ear... “Cherish this, cherish this...”
This Christmas, in lieu of travelling back through time, I shall take a few moments during the mad Christmas hubbub to sit quietly with my wife and my boys and I shall cherish it with all my heart.
I do hope you all do the same with those closest to you.
Have a very merry Christmas. I wish you all the very best for 2011. Thank you all for reading this year.