Its here…as if the build up wasn’t bad enough the day has dawned and I simply want to stay in bed and sleep it away…but of course I can’t and don’t.
Filled with dread and obligation I stagger from our warm bed and force myself to face the day. Ten minutes in I wish I hadn’t bothered… and so I throw bacon into the pan and I hold the phone so my mother can hear the sizzling bacon…My husband backs the car out of the drive and I tell her ‘he’s on his way’ and I attack the rosy tomatoes with a sharp knife.
Twenty minutes later, he is back and mother is in the kitchen asking if she can do anything …but I can't think what to suggest and so I say nothing and just concentrate hard on not burning toast…
And then it is done and we are eating…and all is okay.
They stand on the doorstep in their jackets smoking after breakfast cigarettes while I wash the dishes…He hears me and calls out that I’d better not be doing dishes…but I tell him its okay. This is my escape plan number one. I am doing something. I don’t need to think too much or too hard about anything.
After a while, I ask if they want to open presents first or should I take a shower first…they both say they don’t mind. I thank them. He tells me to shower…escape number two.
I stand under the falling water and rub shampoo in my hair, barely able to breathe and fearing my heart will break. As the water rinses the suds away the tears flow and I sob so hard it hurts. I cry for the loss of me, for the loss of the girl who loved Christmas, for the woman left behind and for my mother who misses her daughter and for my husband who does not deserve the half-wife he ended up with. I stand in the shower too long but I have to get all the salt water out of my eyes before I can go back downstairs. I can’t spoil the day for them; I just can’t do it.
I rub cream into my skin and paste a smile on my face. I comb my still wet hair and pull on my sweater. I go downstairs hoping my voice won’t betray me. I get a drink and we start the present exchange. Four times he has to remind me to open my gifts. I try to stay focussed. I watch them and in the distance I hear their words of pleasure and of thanks.
I know that my mother has found it hard this year…she has told me often enough. She misses shopping with me, she misses my enthusiasm, it’s just not the same she tells me…
I want to scream that I know it’s not the same…I do know it’s not the same.
I know how much it meant to her to buy me the perfect gift and I know how my seeming indifference to the Xmas process hurt her…and when the time came to open her gift I found it all too much. Her anticipation, all the hope she had invested in this came tumbling through. As I opened the box, the tears fell down my face…I couldn’t see the contents and I couldn’t stop the tears and I could speak and I couldn’t move and I couldn’t control it and so it just fell…and she looked on bewildered….what’s going on?
I tried to put my head inside the box; I tried to hide. How the hell do I know what's going on…all I know is that it’s not the same