Well, after completely sneaking up on me, Christmas is once more done and dusted and as ever it went by in a flash.
Normally I’m ready and counting down by the second week of December: presents bought and wrapped, cards sent out, mulled wine made and bottled, buns baked. Yet on the 23rd December I was still wrapping, covered in flour and icing sugar and trying to sort everything out in time for moving up to my parents on Christmas Eve.
Complete fail on the planning front. The tree was up the first weekend in December, that’s one element I never put off, but we were so busy everything else was done on a ‘this needs to be done now’ basis.
But, for all our Christmas procrastination, we have pretty much completed one huge project: our home.
Since moving in some 5 years ago, Matt has shelled the place; all of the walls and ceilings attacked with a hammer then redone, wiring altered, kitchens removed then replaced, double glazing installed…the list goes on. The biggest problem with rennovation is that when you have the time to do the work, outside of your job and everything else, you don’t have the spare cash for the materials; and when you have the money, you suddenly have no time.
We’ve lived in a limbo of floorboards, unpainted walls, bare rooms and endless to do lists – slowly but surely we ticked jobs off. First the lounge and kitchen, then the study, then the bedroom (just before MFI went under, impeccable timing), then the bathroom and finally the staircase. We’ve plastered, sanded, filled, painted, sanded and filled again, painted again, painted yet again, glossed, screwed on new switches, chosen carpet, furniture, bathroom fittings…its largely (from my perspective, anyway) dull, strenuous frustrating work and I am not utterly determined not to move into a fixer-upper ever again. I can stomach buying one – but I’d have to be living elsewhere, with the option to move in when its finally finished. And I’d hire men. Not because I’m lazy (although I am) but because I can’t plaster, I can’t wire, I can’t plumb and its just too much work for Matt alone. As we’ve discovered.
Just before Christmas we entered the final stage – we finally had our stairs carpet fitted. The only part of the house still stripped to floorboards now has a springy, spongy grey/blue carpet coat to wear. I love it. Call me sad, but the thrill of walking on freshly laid carpet after years of floor boards was like an early Christmas present.
We still have work to do – poor insulation (now fixed, after a weekend trapped in the loft stuffing insulation in every nook and cranny) resulted in some minor damp in the bedroom so that will now need to be redecorated. But the prospect or merely sticking up some new wallpaper is a doddle compared to the eons of work needed first time round in there.
We also need to repaint the living room/study/bathroom just because it needs a fresh coat or two. Again, nothing major there.
So realistically, before the wedding next September, we’ll be at a point where we can say we have no DIY to do whatsoever. No more weekends in B&Q. No more umming and aaahing over paint colours or wallpaper. No more sanding, filling, painting…its such a delightful thought I can’t bring myself to believe it yet.
And then of course, we’ll move to a more baby-suitable, larger house in 3/4 years and the whole bloody decorating saga will begin again.
But enough of my interior design woes.
What I realised this Christmas is that its changing. It’s been changing for a while, and although we have our traditions, the format of the day seems to lose an element each year – and gain some new ones.
My niece, Holly, is 20 months old and so our Christmas Day morning largely consisted of drinking Bucks Fizz and watching her tear away festive paper before proclaiming ‘ooooooh’, her decided ‘I’m surprised’ sound. It was lovely – she was thrilled with everything she was bought (even the dire bright pink faux Uggs my sister bought her, despite my protestations that they’d fallen out of Katie Price’s bargain bin) and there were some happy tears from myself, my Mum and sis on more than once occasion (we’re an emotional bunch!).
In previous years, it had been all about me and my little sister, our mountains of presents and nervous parents waiting for reactions – but now Holly has stolen the ‘child’ crown, we watch Mum and Dad open theirs, dotting our own in in between – a more adult, shared experience. It was genuinely lovely and I much preferred it (at 24, being the centre of attention on Christmas Day can be a bit much).
We were spoiled rotten, as always, and had the perfect morning before fulfilling the family tradition of going over to the local pub for a drink with the neighbours.
Then – a new element in recent years – my fiance and I set off on the short walk to his Dad’s house for Christmas dinner (next year we’ll have lunch at my parents’ house). For the first three years of our relationship we always separated on Christmas morning – we’d see each other for presents before he’d leave to join his own family. My Dad thought it ridiculous that we might spend the day apart and so we were sent off together in year 4, alternating families. We’ll keep on this way until we’ve moved to a house large enough to accomodate both mine and his sides and can host our own Christmas day (something Matt can’t wait for).
Spending time with my own niece and Matt’s nieces over the festive period has also led to day-dreaming about the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come – when we have our own family and our Christmases become a whirlwind of children attacking presents as we sit back, exhausted from a month of nativity performances, visits to Santa and shopping-as-a-military-operation.
And at the same time, this was the first Christmas without Matt’s beloved grandmother Irene, who passed away in October. There was as big a hole at the dinner table as there was when my own grandparents died, within a year of each other – it’s sad to realise you’ll never have a Christmas with them again.
Next Christmas we’ll be husband and wife, fresh from a fabulous honeymoon and planning our future together. Christmas will once again change but as long as I still enjoy the season with the people I love – I think I’ll be fine.