Chapter Twenty Five: The Right Place

It’s been a tough day, in the very relative sense of the word tough, ie nothing actually, properly hard happened, apart from that I looked after two small children. One of them- Asher- was an adorable bundle of giggles until his nap was curtailed by his own bowels, and from then on his day went downhill, culminating in a screamy bedtime, which we haven’t had for months (yes that’s right, Asher the Non-Sleeping Baby now just tends to float off to sleep the minute you pop him in his cot, and usually sleeps all night *polishes nails on shirt* *wonders why polishing nails on shirt is the universal sign language for ‘smug’*) . The other- Leila- hopped off to nursery school in a state of high excitement, dressed as a robin for the first performance of her nativity play (for the school – parents get to see it tomorrow), and came home from school a screeching, contrary, overwrought grinch of a child, after her momentous day.

So, it’s good to come back to this draft I started putting together a couple of days ago, and remind myself of the magic that is happening at the moment.

You’ll have noticed the words ‘nativity play’ up there. I’ve been saying- and people think I’m joking- that going to see Leila in the nativity feels like the moment my life has been leading up to. But I’m not entirely joking: I don’t mean that it will be the best moment of my life- though I do find those sorts of moments take you by surprise, and not always during some major rite of passage- I mean that  it does feel like a dovetailing, a coming-together of dreams and wishes and the things that are important to me. I dreamed of having children, and I dreamed of seeing them blossom and enjoy life and have experiences. In the scale of Leila’s life, the nativity is a pretty big experience. It is all wrapped up in what she loves, too: singing, dancing, (cough) performing, joining in. She has thrived at nursery school this term; I really feel like she has hit her stride, I’m so proud of her, and I can’t wait to see her (hopefully) in her element tomorrow, at this place she loves, with these kids she has become friends with, having a ball.

Then there’s the Christmas bit. I love Christmas, and pretty much everything about it. It seems Leila has inherited the Christmas gene, too, and she’s been enchanted with the preparations and the general air of festivity. What’s lovely for me is that her take on Christmas is similar to mine: she’s barely mentioned the presents, but she loves her some bauble-threading (note to parents of small craft-loving kids: threading baubles onto a length of ribbon makes a surprisingly effective decoration), and has been busying around saying things like ‘oh, all the Christmas fings are so gold and sparkly, I love it!’ and ‘we’re working very hard to get ready for Christmas: we’ve got the music on, we’re making decorations, we’re all together…’. For the first time, she’s aware of the sense of occasion and expectation in the air, and the customs and traditions (I’m not forgetting Asher in all this, by the way, but neither am I fooling myself that he has any concept of Christmas, or indeed anything apart from ‘where’s my next meatball’ and ‘give us a hug’). It’s so much fun- and we haven’t even put the tree up yet!

There’s something deeper, though, beneath all the tinsel and bauble-ribbons. When my sister died, I didn’t think I could recapture the magic of Christmas, or throw myself into it again. But, even the first Christmas after we lost her, lacerated with sadness though we were, we found we were able to celebrate all the things that really matter at this time of year: family, love, good food, and of course, mulled wine. Inexplicably, red admiral butterflies appeared in my grandparents’ house where we were staying, flitting through the rooms and landing in front of us. I say ‘inexplicably’- I’m sure the appropriate boffin could explain why butterflies should appear indoors in late December- but I prefer to believe in magic.

Since having children I’ve climbed well and truly back into the Christmas saddle. Seeing it all afresh through Leila’s eyes (and Asher’s in years to come, if that’s his bag), and wanting to make it special for her and Asher, has helped me to realise that, although I am apt to have a grief explosion by the crackers in Quality Save when ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ comes on, I can still be 100% a Christmas Person. And so I shall! *crams mince pie into face*

This post is a rather incoherent and unwieldly way of saying that, for me, looking forward to watching Leila in her nativity play tomorrow reaffirms what matters, to me and, I think, in life. (I’m trying to temper this with the knowledge that, being three years old, she may yet decide come tomorrow that the stage is not for her, or that her robin costume is unwearable. But, just as with Christmas, the anticipation is large percentage of the joy). As ever, I’m so very grateful to my children- though they conspire to finish me on days like today- for bringing me to where I’m meant to be.