Christmas used to be a true destination. A gaudy, magic, tinsel town. A place of glistening, snow-covered, candy dreams. It was last place on the long hard yellow brick road through the year. It was a safe and reassuring place. How many times did mum and dad say « Don’t worry. It’ll all be right come Christmas. »? So, as a kid, I was always glad to get to Christmas, because mum and dad always made sure that everything was right. Of course, as a kid, the road to Christmas wasn’t too hard. You just had to sit in the back seat, stare out the car window at the landscape, and try not to get too bored or to annoy mum , who was navigating and dad, who was driving.
Then one day you grow up, and it’s you in the driving seat. Christmas is no longer a destination, just a stop-over on life’s long road. Christmas becomes a night in a cheap hotel with broken air con and a lumpy bed. It’s a refuelling stop in motorway service station – filling up at the pump, a lukewarm ersatz coffee from a vending machine, a trip to the loo, and then a saunter round the shop for chewing gum, cigarettes, paper tissues and something to keep the kids happy.
Christmas is a name on a map, somewhere to break your journey. You’re sick of driving, but you’ve got to carry on until Christmas. Then you see the signs. Christmas is getting closer, but the last miles are the hardest. The road seems never ending. Finally though, you pull into that blob on the map you’ve been aiming for all year. No magic tinsel town, just a one horse town, that no sooner you’re in, than it’s gone. A drive- through festive blip.
Eventually, you give up caring what Christmas is like. As long as you can get a shower, a cold beer, some food and a decent night’s kip, you’re happy. Usually, Christmas is that cheap hotel, occasionally though, you might get lucky and have a five star festive stop-over. For sure, these are the Christmases you cherish.