‘Merry Christmas, Nanny!’ Dan flung open the back door and strode into the kitchen, stamping his feet on the mat to shake off the snow from his black Converse hi-tops.
‘Ooh, you silly sod you nearly made me drop the spuds.’ My mum, in her festive red dress and white cardy, tipped a pan of parboiled potatoes into a dish sizzling with hot fat.
‘Haha sorry,’ Dan laughed as Mum pulled the teatowel from her shoulder and thwacked him with it.
‘Now then we’ll have no fighting, it’s Christmas Day’ Dad brought a waft of cinnamon candles from the living room as he walked to the fridge, winking at Dan on the way.
‘Don’t be having another one now, you’ll not eat your dinner,’ said Mum as she shoved the potatoes into a steamy oven.
‘I’m not,’ mumbled Dad round a mouthful of stolen pre-cooked pig-in-blanket.
‘How have we all ended up in this tiny kitchen? We’ve been here literally two minutes. I haven’t even got me boots off,’ I said. I kicked them off and removed my new slippers from my bag, purple fleecy boots that warmed my toes in an instant.
‘Dan, come and look at this,’
‘Ok, Grandad,’ Dan disappeared into the living room.
‘You ok, Mum?’
‘Course I am love, are you? Merry Christmas.’ She took the teatowel from her shoulder again, folding it neatly and putting it on the counter next to a pan of yet-to-cook veg.
‘I’m brilliant, Mum, Merry Christmas,’ and we kissed on the lips with a mmm, wrinkling our noses and then crinkling our smiles at each other.
‘Love the slippers, just what I wanted.’
‘Good. When I saw ‘em I thought ooh our Debbie’d love those.’
‘Cosy as,’ I waved my right foot.
‘Might as well open that prosecco now then eh?’ Mum suggested.
‘Rude not to, on Christmas Day.’
I carried my glass through to the living room which was bedecked with the usual trimmings – a fibre optic tree with tips that glowed red, mauve, orange. Across the mantle piece a garland of green tinsel flecked with fake snow, and on the small telephone table a giant snowman. I pressed its little button.
‘Jingle bells, jingle bells,’ its tinny voice rang out as it juddered and shook from side to side.
‘Is that you Daniel Robinson? Turn that bloody thing off!’ Mum yelled.
‘It wasn’t me!’ Dan yelled back laughing, and I gave a silent hahaha and pointed at him for getting in trouble.
The Prosecco, unlike the snowman, hit all the right notes and the fuzzy warmth of the room and the slippers were soon joined by a cosy glow in my tummy. The radio, in the kitchen, sent faint strains of Mary’s Boy Child through the house.
Outside, the snow, that had fallen in a fairytale flurry this morning, had stopped, and the low winter sun was picking out pinks and blues in the white that rested on the garage roof, the bird table, the garden bench.
‘So then you just need to do this,’ Dan explained, as Dad watched Dan set up the new tablet Mum’d bought him. ‘And then we can put on the apps you want. There’s this one for getting goal alerts, this one for the Prem, this one for news…’
‘Just as well you’re here Dan, it’d take me days to figure it out otherwise. Or I’d have had to ask your mum.’ He pulled a face and Dan sniggered.
‘Oy! I can hear you,’ I said, and threw a walnut at them.
‘Right,’ Mum poked her face round the door, ‘get setting the table up.’ Her cheeks were as red as her dress, the prosecco having accentuated the heat from the oven.
Dan, smoothing down his smart new red and black checked shirt over his customary black t-shirt, jumped up to help.
The three of us giggled as we jostled the dining table which, for 364 days of the year stayed wedged in the corner of the living room with a doily and a fruit bowl on it, where Dan would sit to eat endless bowls of Weetabix when he popped round to just say hello.
Now we hefted it into place in front of the fireplace and brought in the other chairs from the bedroom, the hallway. I took the Christmas tablecloth from its usual spot in the hall cupboard, Dad dug out the placemats from the sideboard, and Dan brought in the knives, forks and spoons.
‘Other way Dan,’ I advised, as Dan placed forks on the right.
‘Oh yeh,’ he said. Would that ever sink in, I wondered? Our hands touched briefly as I placed a coaster by a mat, and Dan pulled it away with a dramatic hiss, like I’d burned him. I grinned.
We pulled crackers before the meal. My pink hat drowned me and I had to wedge it behind my ears. Dan’s yellow crown sat atop his unruly freshly washed hair; instead of making him look ridiculous, it somehow made him look more handsome. Mum managed to angle her blue crown to look like a beret and Dad’s hat perched on his bald pate for all of five minutes before he took it off complaining it made him too hot.
The plates were piled high with turkey and trimmings. Dan stuffed three Yorkshire puddings into his mouth in short order, using fingers obviously, and narrowly avoided getting gravy down his shirt.
‘Oh Bob, look at you,’ tutted Mum, as Dad most evidently did not miss his jumper with the gravy.
‘New, and clean on,’ Mum added, attempting to compound any shame Dad was expected to feel.
He gave a little grin, shrugged, and carried on eating.
As always, us three demolished everything whilst Mum slowly worked her way through her hardly-overfilled plate, chewing each mouthful with care.
‘The queen chewed her food fifty times before swallowing, I read once,’ I mused.
‘Nanny’s our queen,’ said Dan.
‘Creep,’ said Dad, and we all chuckled.
I washed up, Dad dried. Dan told Nanny all about his plans for the new year, the places he was going to visit, the people he was going to see. Dad and I harmonised to Walking in a Winter Wonderland.
‘Right, who’s up for snakes and ladders?’ I asked.
‘Miserable old bugger,’ said Mum.
Dad stuck his tongue out.
‘But my favourite miserable old bugger,’ said Mum, grabbing his cheeks and leaning in for a kiss.
Dan, competitive as always, had Mum and me in stitches as each throw of the die became as loaded as a bomb.
‘Oh my god THREE SPACES, that’s a LADDER, ARGGH YOU’VE OVERTAKEN ME NANNY, WHY, WHY? ARGH.’
‘HA! Tough luck, Mum, SNAKE, you’re GOING ALL THE WAY DOWN!’
Mum won. ‘I’m exhausted after that,’ she said, ‘might need some more prosecco.’
I dutifully poured the remnants into her glass.
‘Right, Nanny, snap.’
The cards were brought out and the table rattled with the vigour of Dan’s snapping, his long knobbly fingers slamming down at each pair. Mum had no chance.
‘I feel better now I’ve won,’ said Dan with a satisfied sigh, sitting back, stretching out his long limbs.
‘Good,’ said Dad, ‘I don’t think that table could stand another round.’
And after a cup of tea for me, a hot chocolate and a few Quality Street for Dan (‘how can you even fit anything else in?!’ exclaimed Mum), and some chat about plans for twixtmas and new year, it was time to go.
‘Dan, love, take this, I’ve put a bag of scraps together for Maggie.’
‘Aw, she’ll love that, Nanny.’
‘Here Dan,’ said Dad, beckoning Dan with a nod, as I took my cosy slippers off and put the boots back on. Dad pressed something into Dan’s hand, a sneaky tenner, I’d wager.
Wrapped up, with the remainder of the profiteroles in another bag (‘I was gonna have them later,’ Dad said indignantly, ‘No you weren’t, have a tangerine instead,’ said Mum), it really was time to leave.
A hug and a kiss for Dad.
‘Bye Debs, see you through the week if not the window.’
‘Bye Grandad, thanks again for my dressing gown. Gonna put that on soon as I get in.’
‘Lovely. On me ‘ead’ said Dad, and Dan leaned down and kissed his grandad on his fuzzy head.
A hug for Mum.
‘Take care sweetheart. Love you,’ Mum kissed me and squeezed my hands.
‘Look after yourself, treasure’ she said as Dan bent down to kiss her on the cheek, and she squeezed her eyes shut with delight.
‘Love you Nanny, love you Grandad, see you soon.’
And with more farewell murmurs and gloved waves, we left. Two of us walking side by side in snow that glistened under streetlamps, Mum and Son heading home on Christmas Day night to our hungry dog, and our warm pyjamas and more chocolate in front of the tv, and the joyous satisfaction of knowing what it is to love and be loved.
In memory of Dan, Mum, and Dad, with thanks for all the Christmases.
6 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future.”
Aww love this Debbie more tales of Dan in is younger years they will be there with you have a lovely Christmas xxx
Merry Christmas Debbie. Much love x
Absolutely lovely Deb xx
Your memories are so real and beautiful . Thinking of you Debbie xxx
Fully agree with other comments. You painted such a wonderful vivid picture. Lovely!!!
Fantastically described….felt like I was there. x