I love Christmas. It has always been my favourite time of year. My oldest daughter and my son are only two years apart, so Christmas was always a magical time with double the fun, double the excitement.
My youngest daughter was born with a bigger age gap, so once my older two stopped believing, they kept the magic alive for their sister’s sake.
We have so many Christmas traditions – every year we would all buy a ‘special’ bauble to go on the tree, stockings would be hung on the bannister so we could see whether Father Christmas had been before going downstairs. The tree would go up, accompanied by a Christmas movie and mince pies.
And then every Christmas Eve we would all go down to the village square, where the roads would be closed off and a Carol service would take place, complete with Santa Claus walking around, and to finish it off there would be a firework display over the church tower.
Then, new pyjamas would be donned, a mince pie and a carrot would be left out for the big man, and Rudolph, and the children would go to bed with strict instructions not to come down again in case Father Christmas saw them.
And then it was my turn. I would set to work, bringing down presents, arranging them under the tree, taking a bite out of the mince pie and getting the dog to gnaw at the carrot, before drinking Father Christmas’s Baileys Irish Cream before eventually falling into bed, exhausted but happy.
But children grow up.
This year, my daughter is staying at home, quite rightly, with her fiance and their little boys. Their special baubles hang on their tree, not mine. My youngest daughter no longer believes in Father Christmas, so there is no need for talcum powder footprints on the carpet, or a carrot for Rudolph. My son is still living at home, and will thankfully be spending Christmas day with my youngest daughter and I, but there will be no 6am wake up, or bouncing on the bed.
Last Christmas Eve we went, as a family, to the carol service on the square – my three children, my son in law and my grandson. This year it will be only my youngest daughter and I, as my son will be spending the evening with his friends – again,quite rightly. The entire village turns out for it, so I will doubtless see him there, but it isn’t the same. It isn’t the same as being surrounded by my family; laughing, joking, singing carols and watching their faces as the fireworks explode in the sky.
Boxing Day will be busy – I will, once again, have all of my family with me. They are coming over for the day and staying the night and the house will be filled with laughter and fun. But it’s not the same.
I shouldn’t complain – I have three children who love me very much and who are my best friends. I have two beautiful grandsons who I adore. And I still love Christmas. But the magic has gone. And I miss it, so much.
My nest is emptying, and I hate it. I’m a single mum so there is no partner to share how I feel. I feel…redundant. I still have two children at home, and for that I am extraordinarily grateful, but my son has his own busy life and my little girl is no longer little, she is approaching teenhood and prefers to do her own thing.
Nobody told me that being a mother would have, among all the beautiful times, moments of searing pain, of regret that I let the years go by so fast that I didn’t even notice. I wish I had captured the last time each of them believed in Santa, and had it ingrained onto my brain forever. The last time they shook with excitement as they opened the door and saw all their gifts under the tree. The wide-eyed wonderment of it all.
If I had one Christmas wish, it would be to turn back the clock and have just one more magical Christmas with them all. My babies.
To have the magic back.