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Monday, 9 January 2012

Christmas tree divine, Alice slipped away, Smudged moon.

I sheparded my  reluctant owl eyed children into the car for school this morning,  Christmas, sadly having been and gone.  And we are post parties, carol singing, plays and the like. They did have a good one.  The boy announced casually that he would  be going to a disco on  the Friday night before christmas,  as a sort of afterthought,  short on detail of venue and times. Having extracted this information, I agreed (despite the fact that he had n't actually asked). It was  clearly a youth event, and I,  his faithful chauffeur would  deliver and collect him afterwards. The girls were intrigued. "Will you be meeting anyone," the elder one asks? He shifted  around in the back of the car, while I asked "um ..yes, meet, and what does that involve exactly".  "Oh mum" she said ,  eyes rolling (I could  feel it) "I told you about this already". "Yes, but eh, I am  not entirely clear as to what it involves, you know..... I mean, does it involve meeting more than one person, and..., it is kissing, is't it?"  A silence, and  then "yes! could be more that one, and  what do you mean JUST KISSING?". Amidst much sniggering, I persist (never knowing when to quit)  "but, ah, what if you like the person, how do you stay on, can't you....ah.. meet just one?". "For heavens sake" sighs the eldest,  "you exchange phone numbers of course..... and anyway what does that mean? stay on?"  "Well darling" I ploughed " on, "in my day, if you liked each other, he asked you to stay on.  "And then", I expanded,"you went back to you friends to get your handbag ( to where they were dancing round the handbags, being less favoured than you) (or fussier) and then,  to a chorus of "did he ask you to stay on?" you took your self and your bag over to dance with him for as long as you both pleased.  "Quaint" said the first daughter, "and ...and ..did you kiss him" sniggered the boss", "No" I said firmly," not  until you were serious  (no harm in setting the bar high) you danced, and told him tall tales about what you did for  a  living, (I was variously  a trapeze artist, a tree doctor, and a nurse (very popular) and he, credulous and entertained, would dance with you till the slow dances at the end, when you would attach yourselves very enjoyably , and inch blissfully round the dance floor. (with your brother in the vicinity, allegedly keeping an eye on you, but you didn't worry about that). "BUT no kissing" I finished unless you were....."yeah yeah" all three choroused delightedly, "SERIOUS".

Of course, dear reader, if he had a car,( "does he have a car" you're  friends sighed) you might let him take you home, where you engaged in a pseudo wrestling match, which, if you let him win, he never respected you again, and if you did'nt, you emerged dishevelled but intact from the car.  And  slipped  in through a strategic window perhaps, if it was very late.  Or, more rarely, you might talk for hours in his car about the meaning of life, or, for instance,  whether the devil was an anachronistic concept in the twentieth century, (having that time been to seen The Omen), until your mother emerged  from the house in  dressing gown with flashlight, having entirely misunderstood the situation.

Much later on: the boy sat  at the kitchen table, long legs wraped around a kitchen stool, shovelling ornflakes into his mouth with intent, because, he said,  he was starving. After some probing he volunteers that it was a good night, with a waterfight in the cloakrooms, and one of the lads being ejected for throwing a water balloon at sir. And, um, was he dancing? "We all danced together.  When we felt like it" he said impatiently, and takes himself off to bed yawning prodigously.  Dishevelled but intact then.

Our house was  garnished,  ornamented with various, carefully preserved  christmas artifacts, swathes of garish tinsel,  ancient posters of santa, and as many flashing multicoulred  lights as the boy had  persuaded me to allow. The tree was  selected, after intense  scrutiny and argument, transported home with much forward planning, and stood in the living room weighed down  ( well it would be weighed down if it wasn't the stoutest,  most unwieldly tree available, and well up to its burden of baubels) ( each year I suggest something neater,  more cirumspect, but the children are  passionate about having" a proper tree".) This year, I left them to dress the tree, with guilty gratitude, in order to go to the church  removal of  very sweet and  elderly  relative . There,  the soft voiced amiable talk of the mourners in the  background,I drifted  into  reverie about the sweet natured woman, slipping away at the extreme end of the year while all around her her neighbours whipped up the usual Christmas frenzy ( the better to obscure the  winter dark, the blurring of boundaries between this world and the closing  night).  We left her there,   coffined in the ice cold, dimly lit church,  long  looming shadows subduing the rich red vibrancy of christmas  poinsettias, the  silver and blue of alabaster saints. "I suppose she's in heaven" the boss  sighed, before I left the house "but I wouldn't want it... like.... to miss the christmas tree, and all the people you know, and its like.....too far,... its too far away,".  "Oh Yeah, its  in outer space" sniggered the boy," down a huge black hole". "No, no darling, its very near, heaven, it's just you can  see it when you die, that's all". (never ceasing to amaze myself with my maternal ability to channel a pollyanna like stream of conciousness, when the need arises) ( or  ever sure from whence said stream flows)

Each  year the children divide the tree baubels, stars,  ancient robins,  tinkling bells, ornaments frorm the dim and distant past, into three piles, amidst bitter disputes as to who put up what last year, and  the year before, and the year before that (  a complex tripartite treaty reached,  quite beyond my ability to adjudicate). Just as well the tree is stout and hardy, before the onslaught of three clashing visions as to how it should be.
It was all over when I  returned from the Removal, the tree a glorious blaze of red , gold and green,  eccentric but  divine, the  angel slightly askew, triumphantly crowning  a flowing glinting wonder.

And this year, no Santa. The boss has decided it is time, though I would have gone another year, so that's that. No more Santa;  no more sweetly manipulative letters thanking Santa carefully for past loot, before slipping in the outrageous list; no more frantic scrambling about following  a change of mind after the letter has gone and santa's elves have already  got the exact item from the workshop and put in on the sleigh; no more comic confusions by busy santa where you might find  the signs on the toy kitchen placed upside down on christmas morning,  or handlebars on the tricyle facing outwards; no more hysterical children unable to sleep, afraid to be awake on christmas eve, no more sage warnings  to lively little ones about santas elves on the watch from early december, threats of lumps of coal given to a child you heard about,,  and never again three enchanted  little ones, sitting blissful in a cavern of christmas wrappings, sweet wrappers, and the exact things they asked for, at 6am (or other unearthly hour) on christmas morning. One visit to an electronic warehouse, for a couple of  I Pod Touchs and an X Box, has a fine simplicity about it after all.  And yet... and yet... I think, as we drive home from the childrens  mass  on Christmas Eve, and I remember another   Christmas Eve, drifting home on an empty road in a frozen blanket of fog, through which the the partially obscured moon shed a dim  and ghostly light, when the (oh so young and innocent) boy asked me  how santa would find us when the moon was SMUDGED, and yet.......I'm not ready, not yet.....santa?

                                                            SMUDGED   MOON

                                        Boy saw the moon saw the moon saw boy,
                                           Boy in the moon in the moon in boy.
                                        The moon, the moon the moon  is smudged, he said,  "oh why?"
                                         and I, Navigator, smelled the smoky air and knew
                                                its purple trail accross the sky.
                                         From gathering dark, the Smudged Moon rides.
                                                    His blurred face wavers
                                                       pale, now shimmers
                                                    casting soon to be, becoming worlds in light.
                                                      Darkness lightens
                                                       brightest dims
                                                    on Christmas eve, on Christmas Eve.
                                                      As we, miraclemakers! drive
                                                       home, from church and crib.
                                                    Worlds ravel and unravel as we ride,
                                                   my mindsrace plans, the children's slightly crazed
                                                      anticipation, dreams
                                                     of Rudolph redeemed, will
                                                    gather up our scattered magic.
                                                    He, who hopeful bears,
                                                   the laughing man in red, the holy babe.