I was cuddled up with Fred on the sofa watching “Saving Santa” …. which begins with the quote:

Christmas is a day that holds all time together.
People take from Christmas
their memories of
happy times and sad,
past, present and future.

As I stroked my little boys freshly cut hair, and helped him peel his satsuma; I was taken back to Christmases past … one particularly dark year, when I distinctly remember sitting in my writing shed at the bottom of my parents orchard. I was writing [another unfinished novel, I suppose …] by candlelight, chain smoking, listening to the radio, somewhere around 2am, wrapped in an old blanket. It was a lonely place to be; I look back at that young woman, lost; struggling; unable to envisage a future … and want to whisper in her ear that everything would be okay. “A candlelight carol” came on the radio, an arrangement by John Rutter which I hadn’t heard before. It contains the line “How can you measure the love of a mother, and how can you write down, a baby’s first cry.” I still have this in my itunes library … [you can listen on youtube here ] and I remember so well the hopelessness of that Christmas. Fast forward to 2014, and I sat resting my hands on a growing Freddie-bump, listening to the same carol. It is hard to believe how much has changed since then. 2014 was an emotional Christmas – preggers, alone, recently moved into my flat, and wondering how I would manage. I recall crying in the shower a lot, talking to my wriggly little Freddie in utero, reassuring him that his momma loved him so much and would always try her best. Last year I sat with my 9month old on my lap, listening to the same carol, appreciating it’s poignancy all the more; amazed that I was a mother. This evening I’m listening to it whilst my little boy sleeps in his cot [for the fifth night this week] …

I’ve never been a huge fan of this time of year … although now I have my boy, I am warming to the magic through a child’s eyes. The Christmases I spent in Calcutta made me very cynical about the western commercial craziness  … and I don’t say that from a religious perspective [forever the agnostic]. In Calcutta we served rice and dahl to the street dwellers who queued for hours outside the gates of Shishu Bhavan on AJC Bose Road. The hot meal was their greatest present. I look at the sacks of presents in my wardrobe for Freddie, and remind myself that one day I will take him to Calcutta, to understand that not all little boys are as lucky. I do miss Calcutta at Christmas; the volunteer’s Christmas play in Motherhouse on Christmas Eve; the carols, the human chain passing the rice and dahl on Christmas morning … Sr Andrea summoning me to the parlour for a serious conversation …. those were happy Christmases, and Christmases devoid of presents and commercialism. I remember one such Christmas when having worked all day, myself an an American volunteer friend [yes Maddy, if you’re reading …] fell into bed realising we hadn’t in fact eaten all day! We ended up getting a khadi roll – a Calcutta street food speciality, costing about 15p, as our Christmas dinner!

A little while ago I blogged about mental health; and I find this time of year so delicate for so many …. like the quote from Freddie’s new favourite DVD [“Again, Momma, Again, Pease Momma!”] – it inevitably evokes memories, of times when things were different, when situations were different; when people were together. The media project the ideals; the happy families, the perfect food; the seemingly effortless happiness … and the reality is often so different.

It will all, very soon, be over … and the Valentines cards will be in the shops.

Until then, see you on the other side ….