Ghosts of Christmas past December 22, 2016 22:49
On our landing growing up we had a large mahogany chest. It was highly polished and we loved sliding across it on our tummies in our pyjamas before bedtime. I have a very clear memory of doing this one Christmas Eve and pausing mid-slide to look out the window. I pictured Father Christmas being pulled by the reindeer through the sky and squeezed myself in excitement at the thought that he was on his way and he'd be here with us soon. There's nothing in life quite like the anticipation of Christmas Eve when you're a child.
Christmas was always a busy time with us. We had a large family, with 9 cousins on one side and 10 on the other so our festivities weren't for the faint hearted. Between us, the cousins spanned about 25 years and although we saw some of them regularly, there were a glamorous few who lived abroad or who had better things to do than hang around with a bunch of kids so Christmas was often the only time we got to catch up with them.
We'd generally spend the day with Ma Pheasant's family and then decamp up to Gran's to see rest of the herd in the evening. With such a wide spread of ages there were always a few little ones at Gran's on Christmas night and we'd all squeeze into her sitting room, kids on the floor and the adults jostling for space on the sofa or grazing on cold meat and pork pie in the dining room.
Gran was a hard working and benevolent matriarch who adored her grandchildren unreservedly. She was liberal with sweets and puddings, didn't nag us to eat our greens and had the patience of a saint, so only very rarely got cross with us. She wanted to make sure the smaller children had the best Christmas possible so every year she'd enlist one of the uncles to dress up as Father Christmas and arrive at the front door with a sack full of presents. The doorbell was an old fashioned handle that when you pulled it, actually rang a bell suspended from the ceiling in the hall. We'd hear that jingle and be part terrified, part bursting with excitement as we quickly did an unspoken stock-take of who was the bravest to answer the door. One year before my time, one cousin, not quite bold enough to answer the door himself but courageous from the crowded comfort of the living room had whispered loudly: "Tell Santa I wanna see dem reindeers" and we always shouted it at whichever dressed up uncle came through the door.
Looking back, those childhood Christmases were magical, not just for the generosity of our family, but for the security and long held tradition that they represented. There was something timeless about them and we couldn't imagine them ever changing. That side of the family has dispersed now and we've moved on with families of our own but those years left an indelible impression of laughter, love and fun that we'll never forget.
Happy Christmas Pheasant Pluckers. xx.
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