It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I totally agree. The Christmas decorations are up, the songs are being sung (in my case, the same one over and over in my head) and the Elf DVD has been dusted down. But, in all honesty, how can I escape to read? How early is it acceptable to abandon my family and head to bed? I can get away with it the rest of the year, but Christmas is different. There is no nice way of sneaking off for an hour of solitude.
I have been a mother for twenty seven years now and Christmas is definitely a big occasion in our house. We have a slightly different tradition, where we open our presents on Christmas Eve (carried through from my side of the family) and the kids get the joy of their Santa presents and stockings on Christmas Day. We all gather in our kitchen late on Christmas Eve, sharing a mammoth Chinese take-away and then move into the drawing room where the great unwrapping begins. It is done in age order and, as I’m the oldest (by five whole weeks,) I am always last. Then there is a couple of hours of playing around with recently opened gifts, watching TV and getting the youngest packed off to bed before Santa arrives. I begin to get book-withdrawal symptoms just after the last present is opened. I shuffle around the room, pretend to watch TV and laugh along with in-family jokes. I briefly forget my literary addiction while preparing the room for the next day and then dash upstairs to read.
Then comes Christmas Day. Obviously a no-go area for solitary reading, what with the whole spending-time-with-the-family thing. The big dinner is eaten, the food-coma is in full swing, the Prosecco is all gone and the paper hats have been abandoned. The board games come out and the banter begins. I can usually manage a sneaky chapter or two during these competitive sessions, but refereeing may be required. There is an overall feeling of contentment in the house and the normal daily chores can be forgotten. There are power-sleeps for some, family phone calls made and new toys assembled.
In the midst of all this seasonal chill-out is a book lover, reading glasses perched on the top of her head, snatching sneaky moments with her fictional characters. Ironically, there are people all over the world who are reading Christmas books alone and dreaming they had a family to spend the day with. I think this year I shall step away from the books, even for just one day, and see how I do. Hang on, that might be a bit adventurous. Would anyone notice if I listened to an audio book with earphones in?
Merry Christmas from all at Bleach House….
(c) Margaret Bonass Madden