This morning I was going to write about how stressful the lead-up to Christmas has been, but the front page of The Age stopped me in my tracks. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut by now, and despite being shocked by all the information, it was the photos of those beautiful children that really kicked me in the guts. This was the first time I’d seen images of the children who were killed.
It changes the colour of Christmas, doesn’t it? Christmas IS all about kids – their joy, anticipation and innocence gives the festive season some meaning. Forevermore Christmas will now be a time of mourning for those families who lost their babies. And the six adults. Knowing so many families’ lives have been devastated by this tragedy, of course, makes our troubles seem pathetic.
The only positive to come from this is to hug our own children all the more tightly and cherish each day we have with them. Put aside trivial concerns about messy bedrooms, the unpacked dishwasher, sibling squabbles and marital spats to remember how precious and fleeting life is.
I feel guilty now about what I was going to write. About how Christmas can be a burden – especially for women, who often bear the brunt of present shopping and food preparation. I was also going to whinge about how I’m finding it hard to match the enthusiastic festive spirit of my daughter, and now I feel I deserve a huge slap in the face. So here’s a new version of what I wanted to tell you.
It started when I had friends over for drinks at the weekend and felt I couldn’t even begin to tidy the house because it is crammed with Christmas junk. And it’s Veronica’s fault. Because of our daughter, our house is swamped with Christmas chaos. Littered with STUFF from floor to ceiling. Her brother groans as we start pulling STUFF out of boxes each year. ‘Oh no, not again,’ he moans. ‘Crap everywhere, AGAIN.’ In a way, I know how he feels. I sigh inwardly as Christmas approaches, knowing I’m going to have to heave umpteen boxes out of the attic and down the stairs to help Veronica create her Christmas heaven.
Veronica has always adored Christmas. Every year she wants to put the Christmas tree up earlier than anyone else and she starts playing carols, singing along. Making Christmas shopping lists is a matter of utmost urgency and care. And Christmas shopping trips must be planned well in advance. I thought this was something she’d grow out of – perhaps after discovering the secret about Santa’s true identity. But no – at seventeen, she’s as enthusiastic as ever.
Every year Veronica pesters me to take her to Christmas Kingdom and buy more STUFF. It’s been an annual ritual since she was about nine.
Now, it’s not that I’m an excessive spender, but over the years the STUFF has accumulated. Her enthusiasm is annoyingly infectious. I find it impossible to say ‘NO’ when she pleads for ‘just one more’ decoration for the tree. We now have about three miniature moving English villages, large silver stars swinging from trees in the backyard, a tiny Santa rocking on a swing, a glowing Santa that lights up against a wall, a battery-operated Santa that pushes a cart, a dancing Santa, stuffed unicorns, large gold reindeers and reams of plastic lead-light Christmas stickers on windows. Not to mention the hoards of decorations and tinsel covering every inch of bench space.
I asked her why she loves Christmas so much and she said it’s because it’s a time for celebration. I was mildly and pleasantly surprised. At least she didn’t say because of the presents. And she loves the carols. Because of Veronica, we watch Carols by Candlelight every Christmas Eve. She insists the whole family do this together.
So you can imagine how devastated she was when she found out she had to have FOUR wisdom teeth removed last week.
‘Not in the holidays!’ she wailed. ‘Plus I have a Christmas party on Sunday!’ But it had to be done. After suffering braces for two years, there was no chance we were going to let those wisdom teeth undo all the good work that had been done. (not to mention the cost…) So off to hospital she went.
It’s a painful experience. I remember going through exactly the same procedure at her age. As I drove her home from the hospital, she turned her face to the window so I couldn’t see her tears.
I predicted time spent in bed watching movies and eating custard and ice-cream the following day. There wouldn’t be much room for Christmas cheer amid the pain-killers, mouth wash and ice-packs.
But no. Before lunchtime, Veronica was in the kitchen dressed in her Christmas t-shirt and ear-rings. ‘I have to make some cupcakes for the party tomorrow,’ she said. With a bandage swathed around her head holding ice against her swollen cheeks, she cooked and she iced, baking and stirring for the entire day and evening. Cooking for her friends and creating a magical gift, instead of buying something from the shops. In-between, she threw up twice, as a reaction to the anaesthetic she’d had the day before.
It was a Harry Potter themed party so she made dozens of multi-coloured miniature cupcakes, all topped with the letter ‘H’ for all to eat, plus a special batch of Harry Potter cookies as a Kris Kringle gift.
And unlike her difficult, camera-shy brother (see earlier post ‘Who is that Stranger Hiding from the Camera) she was even happy to pose for a photo for me – despite her swollen and slightly bruised face.
How could I have dared to even think of complaining about the Christmas chaos in our house when the creator is our beautiful daughter who brings us and so many others, so much joy? To complain about anything, particularly to do with our children, when others are suffering such unimaginable grief in Newtown, would be criminal. To those families, I send my deepest, most-heart-felt sympathies, hugs and tears.
Instead, this is my ‘thank you’ story. Thank you, Veronica, my darling daughter for being you and keeping the Christmas Spirit thriving in our home. And to whichever God is out there, looking out for my family and keeping them safe. Thank you. Forever, thank you.