Writing for Grey Pride I almost inevitably look back to Christmas Past and think of times when we all went to Grandma and Granddad’s for Christmas Dinner.
Julie was a portly, rather serious lady with a smile as broad as the Heavens. To me in my twenties, she was quite elderly – in her fifties. What a dinner! Could she cook! Could she bake – and make it all look easy? Julie could do it all. She was of ‘the old school’.
There it was, the large table with immaculately ironed white tablecloth in the Edwardian living room. A dozen or more wits and wags, the outlaws and the in laws, the inevitable sharp tongued Aunt causing ructions, all sitting with their paper hats on.
And next to this bawdy crowd, on a low table were the children – all set up like a miniature dining table. There were five or six of them, excited, bossy, giggly, overawed. Telling each other off, falling off the little chairs, orange juice spilling, trying to keep up with the noisy adults.
Mistletoe, holly, huge coal fire, pints of Davenports’ home delivery, sherry for the ladies – a drop of gin as the night progressed. And Dick, my father-in-law, the ex Police Constable, now driving part time for a Funeral Director presided. He only took his briar pipe from between his lips to eat or to speak – and his words were few and far between, but usually worth saying.
That was it, Christmas fifty or sixty years ago.
Now we are the elderly ones – not fifty though (a bit more than that). The world has changed in so many ways, for the better and for the worse.
The extended families I look back on so nostalgically are now living all over the country or the world. Australia, India, South Africa – only like moving from Manchester to London was in those earlier days.
Some kind-hearted entrepreneur thought about the needs of far-flung families and invented Skype and Facebook and internet shopping.
Julie and Dick, if they lived today would cook dinner and have a drink together, a friend (or the grumpy aunt) may pop in for an hour. There’d be a lovely Christmas tree in the corner, brought out each year with the plastic bags of baubles.
They’d probably have presents under the tree delivered by Santa’s internet. Julie and Dick would maybe kiss under the mistletoe and eat nuts as they watched Christmas Night Specials on the large screen TV.
In the kitchen there would be a washing machine instead of the tub and posser in the cellar, a fridge rather than a larder in the back porch. They’d have a warm house, with central heating – no crackling coal fire.
If we didn’t have change it would mean one thing – we’d all be dead already! Change is a part of life itself. We can cherish our memories of the past and yet count our blessings as we sit cosily supping hot toddies.
That feeling of ‘we must be doing something festive because everyone else is’ doesn’t hold water any more. We know that any family suddenly in one place together can be as ‘disturbing’ as having them thousands of miles away. It’s a wonderful concept, but all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold.
Christmas is what we make it. And we learn that the best moments are those when you remember someone who is alone and you pick up the phone or drop in on them for an hour. Or, let’s be honest, when someone does that for you.
Good tidings of comfort and joy.
Dorrie Jane Bridge