What Happened to Christmas?

It flickered a while and then fizzled out like a fairy light on the blink.

1973. We’ve moved from Twickenham to Bromley. We still have our old tree. Christmas Eve is an « Entertainment » at the Fairfield halls in Croydon. Over successive years we have seen Roy Castle, Lesley Crowther, Rolf Harris, Little and Large, the Krankies and the Nolan Sisters. Big Bruv’s claim to fame – he has been on stage at the Fairfield Halls to take part in Roy Castle’s Pogo Stick challenge. He’s won a handful of sweets and a signed photo of « record breaking Roy ».

In 1981, we stopped our Christmas entertainments – big bruv and me were getting just a little too old for festive fun at the Fairfield Halls. Then in 1983, mum started her downward spiral into deep depression that took her about the next ten years to get out of. She stopped “making the effort” and started harking back to December  1970, when we lost Dad. “Christmas doesn’t mean anything anymore” mum used to say in the run up to the festive season. “I sometimes wonder if it ever meant anything at all,” she would add in floods, as Big Bruv and I followed her round the house one Boxing Day, putting back up all the decorations that mum was busy taking down. “I only ever made the effort so you two wouldn’t be disappointed … that’s been the story of my bloody life.” she wailed, before collapsing into her armchair, with the floods of tears turning into an ocean that drowned mum out.

Waves of tears, waves of depression – a big black tsunami, that overwhelmed her. I was sixteen. My brother was nineteen. I didn’t know how to cope with mum’s depression, and my brother didn’t want to. The next Christmas, he was off to foreign parts to join, the first in a long line of dysfunctional, screwed up foreign girlfriends and mum and I stayed home, stuffing ourselves senseless in front of the telly.

Christmas Eve 2010. Felt strange not sending mum her regular Christmas card and parcel. Here we are, at home in France, all decorated and ready to pop out to Mass. I’m not much of a churchgoer, and I’m not catholic, but I like going to mass on Christmas Eve – It gives a meaningful and spiritual edge to the festive season, and, on leaving church, I feel “cleansed.”

Rang mum’s cousin, Jean, in Dundee this afternoon. Mum’s ashes arrived and Jean has put mum’s casket under the tree, so the “wee dear” can enjoy her last Christmas.

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