People are tired and stressed and SHOUTY and there just seems to be lots of drama everywhere. I’m holding on to the thought of Christmas and time spent with family.
I can’t help thinking about current Christmases without thinking about past ones though. Christmas as a child is something very special and I know now that the holidays of my youth were pretty unique.
This is what I remember. And what I miss:
- Being surrounded by cousins, lots of them. I was never bored because there was usually a minimum of about 10 of us kids, ranging in age from toddler to teens. Families are smaller these days and we’re scattered around the globe, so unfortunately I don’t see my children enjoying this same privilege.
- A rambling farm house, packed to the hilt with people. Not everyone has a farmhouse to share, so the idea of hosting four families at a time just isn’t something people can do now. But I used to love it. You’d wake up in the morning and the dining room looked like something out of a hotel. The first shift might have already passed through, so you’d find a clean knife and proceed to make a batch of fresh toast with whoever happened to be joining you.
- We didn’t watch TV. We had one, but it was hardly ever on. Instead we’de spend hours playing board games, ranging from Scrabble to Trivial Pursuit to countless card games. I have some pretty clever relatives so these games usually involved lots of arguments, a fair bit of sulking (me) and some sore losers too (often me).
- We spent most of our time outside. Whether it was games of Marco Polo in the swimming pool, riding our bikes around an obstacle course or exploring the Bushman paintings along the Fish River, there was always an adventure to be had.
- The food: there were bowls of nuts to be cracked and a huge tin of Quality Street chocolates to fight over. The Christmas meal was often a ham and a few legs of lamb, as well as mounds of roast potatoes. There was always that box of assorted biscuits to eat with cheese and sometimes scones for tea.
- On Christmas Day, we’d all head off to the local tennis club to go “to church”. This usually involved about 20 farmers dressed in their Sunday best sitting on white plastic chairs fanning themselves with their hymn books. My beautiful mother, who was talented at very many things, was also completely unable to sing in key. My sister and I used to cringe with embarrassment as she sung very enthusiastically to every single hymn, all watched over by the travelling priest.
- The heat. The temperatures on our farm were something else. We used to open all the doors and windows early in the morning to let the cool air in and then close everything up at about 9am. There were no air conditioners in those days and I remember often just lying on the carpet staring up at the rotating fan, hoping for some relief.
- We used to leave beer and biltong for Father Christmas, not cookies and milk. My Dad always said that if he was dear old Santa he’d get very thirsty flying all around the world on his sleigh, so he’d appreciate a beer instead.
I suppose all this nostalgia is because I miss the freedom of Christmas past. You weren’t planning the meals, you were just enjoying them. You weren’t buying Christmas presents, you were just opening them. As a mother, you now approach Christmas in a much more organised fashion and this can sometimes squeeze the joy out of it.
I also wonder what kind of memories I’m providing for my kids. I know I’m doing my best but will they ever be as carefree as we were, will their memories be quite as wonderful? I can only hope.