Christmas has always been a special time for me, my mum was English and also a bit of a perfectionist, so every year the preparation for Christmas was huge and intense. I loved it, it was my favourite time of the year, and I’d like to believe mums too. She was so good at making moments magical. Every year she would encourage us to put out nests for the Easter bunny. I still remember my excitement as we put freshly mown Lower Hutt grass into ice cream containers to leave on the back porch in the dark.
Christmas was even better, mum would let us help her make marzipan Christmas shapes, the tree was always up in plenty of time with mounds of presents underneath to tease us. The whole house was decorated festively and be spic and span. And let’s not forget the Christmas cake, resplendent with royal icing, a gaudy plastic santa and sleigh atop, nestled among the pure white. I remember we used to hang Mackintosh’s toffees on the Christmas tree with sewing thread, and that by the time Christmas day came there were usually only the wrappers left, swaying gently on their cotton strands. The mint one was my favourite and I would hunt through the branches seeking the flavour out, relishing that moment of joy when I realised there was still one left!
Sometimes we would go to a Christmas party down the road at our neighbour’s house. I loved these because the kids all just ran wild while the adults got slightly pissed and pretended not to notice. Happy happy days.
I love singing, and Christmas carols are a favourite (although after working in retail for 10 years they lost some of their lustre). I remember one year driving my sister mad by playing Snoopy’s Christmas repeatedly in my room, dancing and singing away. Sorry sis lol.
When Nige and I had the kids, we tried to pass this magic on to them, and one day I will find out if we succeeded. I hope we did so that they can pass it on to their children, should they choose to have them. A legacy of wonder, excitement and joy.
Of course, this year was a little different. The kids didn’t have their daddy. I didn’t have my husband and partner in crime, who also loved Christmas. It was like the kids and I were commando crawling towards the finish line (thanks for the inspiration Helen), getting more and more drained as we went, just wanting the whole thing to be over. Christmas Eve was the hardest. I put Nige’s playlist on and started to wrap the presents, but within minutes I could hardly see through the tears. Don’t feel bad for me though, it’s during those moments I feel close to him. I was sad because those songs are like messages to me and the kids. Advice for the future, apologies for the past, explanations of what Nige was thinking but couldn’t say. Nige’s playlist may have songs like “F the police” in it, but it is really a beautiful story about a beautiful man, expressing his love for those he left behind, and reminding us all to live on and live well.
Today I was talking to Nige’s sister and I remembered something he said to me before he died. He said “don’t grieve for me when I’m gone” “live your life and be happy”. Or something along those lines. He wanted that for all those he loved. One of the things Nige taught me was to slow down, relax and be good to yourself, do what makes you happy without guilt. This doesn’t mean being selfish, it just means taking care of your own needs, so that others don’t have to, and so you can be your best version, and in doing so help others that can’t. I believe if you have made any changes in your life recently that feel a bit out of the ordinary but also so right, and you were close to Nige, it may just have been him whispering those suggestions in your ear. Taking care of you. He had a huge capacity for love in that big heart of his, and he wanted to share it, in his way.
My dear friends and family, you don’t need to worry about me, I am well looked after and have a lot of love in my life, which I’m so grateful for. The kids are coming along OK, travelling what will be an endless road. But it will become less steep over time, and I will continue to carry them when they need it. Now I would like to share with you a piece of my inner thoughts. Sometimes I feel guilty because I don’t feel sad, or as sad as I think I should in my situation. But then I realised something. Here is a text I sent to a friend the other day:
“I need to tell you something. I love Nige and I do miss him, I just don’t want to think about it. I want to feel happy for a change. My soul is so so tired and it needs a break. I just want to feel something other than sadness in my life”
And happily, I feel Nige would support me in this view. Life is short, live it, enjoy it, love and laugh through the pain. There are times when you will feel so so sad, but these times don’t have to be eternal. Appreciate the fact that you are alive and can make choices that lead to happiness. Be kind to others, be kind to yourself.
And with my lecture now over, to finish off I leave you with my sisters favourite song, for your listening pleasure: