As I sit here gazing at the Christmas tree, pondering just how long we can leave it up before the neighbours start asking after our wellbeing, I can’t help but chuckle to myself at the irony of my situation. Almost exactly a year ago today I wrote this post all about Bailey’s first Christmas – a long moan about how Christmas with a small baby isn’t quite as magical as I’d hoped, and how I looked forward to hopefully enjoying the next one a little more. Well. Didn’t that just serve me right?! I think we can all agree that given the 12 months that followed, it hasn’t aged well. I mean, I stand by everything I stand by everything in that post – Christmas with a newborn is hard work and not anything like the fantasy we’re led to believe it is – but the fact I had such high hopes for this year seems kind of laughable now, and I almost feel like Covid was sent here just to teach me a lesson! I guess in a way, I got my wish. Christmas sure was different, but certainly not in the way I, or indeed any of us, expected…
With Bailey being our first child I didn’t really have any point of reference for how I thought Christmas would be this time. It’s hard to imagine that this time last year he was just a tiny baby, one that only needed breastmilk as sustenance and hadn’t yet realised he was able to exercise free will! Back then I couldn’t imagine what Christmas with a toddler would be like, but it had to be more exciting than one sat in a darkened room trying to coax him to sleep while everyone else had fun down the hall! I missed the parties, being able to spontaneously accept a glass of fizz, watching drunk friends hug and sway to The Pogues in a crowded pub while singing at the top of thier lungs. And while I knew that becoming a parent meant a definite slowing down of my social life, I fully expected to be partaking in a few of those activities this year, even if a little more low key. But of course that was not to be. This year there were no parties. There were no pubs and no singing or hugging friends. There were an awful lot of spontaneous glasses of fizz but the less said about that the better, probably…It was a year when everything I associated with a fun Christmas, everything I felt I’d missed out on the year before, couldn’t happen, and even though I really should have expected it given the way things were headed throughout Autumn and the start of Winter, it kind of took me by surprise.
It took a long time to sink in, the realisation that my long awaited Christmas was effectively cancelled. Normally I’d have almost finished my Christmas shopping by December but we were at least a week in before I even started. Up until that point I’d been floating through my second period of furlough in a state of denial, desperately hoping some kind of miracle might occur at the last minute. And once I finally accepted that was not to be, shopping did nothing to help to get me in the mood! I tried my best to get what I could online, and we squeezed the rest into a few stressful hours late in the evenings to avoid crowds. Even when on maternity leave last year I did most of my shopping in Birmingham while seeing friends or family, but this year I found myself wandering unfamilar shopping centres without a clue where anything was. The weather was bad, Bailey was no longer happy to spend more than 45 minutes or so strapped into the pushchair and the one way systems frequently led me out of the store before I’d even found what I was looking for. I couldn’t even sit down with a coffee and check off my list.
Some days it was easy to maintain that stance of blissful ignorance – in our little bubble life ticked on as normal and our days were spent walking the dog, tidying up the hundreds of toy cars that now littered the house and trying to coax Bailey into eating something other than bread and bananas. But other days the reality hit me like a tonne of bricks. Mariah Carey coming on the radio, Facebook memories of past Christmas parties, finding Bailey’s old Christmas booties in a drawer – they all had the ability to stop me in my tracks and reduce me to tears. Getting organised for a festive season without seeing my family or friends just seemed impossible. Somehow though, we got the job done, and before I knew it, our strange little Christmas was here.
Of course, Christmas is, in reality, just another day, and while it seemed unimaginable, when the time came it didn’t really feel so different. Ironically, as the years in which we get to lie in bed on Christmas morning dwindle away, I woke early, my head full of worries about how the day might feel. But once we’d woken Bailey, showed him that Santa had been and set about opening gifts, our hearts were too full to really dwell on it. That isn’t to say I didn’t feel the absence of my family. I did. I wanted nothing more this year than to show off my little boy. For them to marvel at him toddling around, hear him talk, scoop him up for hugs and kisses. He’s changed from a baby to a toddler since this pandemic began and I feel as though they’ve missed it all. But it was still a lovely day. Not without it’s challenges, of course – It took us until bedtime to get his presents opened because he really just wanted to play with the very first thing he opened, and he point blank refused to eat even a bite of his lovingly prepared dinner – but lovely, none the less. It’s been a real joy seeing him finally begin to engage with festive activities. Obviously he isn’t old enough yet to understand or get excited, but he loves the lights and the music so much and we can now see the beginnings of how fun our Christmases will be from now on. In a strange way, though it was not what I or anyone else really wanted, we still got some of that magic I’ve been yearning since last year, and for that I’m grateful.
So packing away the twinkling lights and decorations feels just as sad this year as any other. Not sad because the constant merriment and partying is over for another year, but sad because it never really started, and because once again a milestone for Bailey has been and gone. But this time around, instead filling my thoughts for hopes of what next year will look like, I’m focusing on soaking up the memories we made. obviously I want this year to bring an end to our current situation, but having any expectations at all feels like asking for trouble, so we’re just taking each day as it comes, and that’s at least something I’ve gained from this year!
Happy New Year, all! I hope 2021 is kinder to you!