There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.
Today I’m really pleased to welcome Hugh Roberts to Places in our Memories. Hugh has been a friend for many years and, besides being a writer, has a wealth of knowledge on blogging and how to get around all the glitches that WordPress throws at us. And he is always so generous in helping those of us who are technophobes. But, today, he’s here, telling us how he’d much rather have chocolate for Christmas dinner.
I have always been a lover of life. Yes, it’s thrown many curve balls at me and said: “here, deal with that!” but my love affair with life has never ended or been anywhere near ending. I could just ‘like’ life, but I have always adored it and will continue doing so until my’ sell-by date’ comes along. If I could marry life, I would have proposed many years ago.
There is one part of my life that I especially enjoy – Christmas. Unlike others who quickly grow out of Christmas after they reach teenager years, Christmas has never lost its magic. In the 60 years I have been on this earth, Christmas has never failed to deliver its magic to me.
The memory I am sharing with you today is extraordinary only because it includes three wonderful ladies I will never forget. So, let me take you back to a day I can remember and tell you what it means to me.
I’m sitting on the floor in the huge living room of our house. It’s the second home I have lived in since the day I was born. In front of me is a big high, dark wooden table and, on top of the table, I can just make out the brightly coloured yellow truck I had been given that day. The colour fascinated me and became my favourite colour until about twenty years ago when blue took over.
Sat at one end of the table, to my right, is the first of these ladies, my grandmother, Nana Wallington. She looks down at me and smiles. She has thick, black-rimmed spectacles, which make her eyes look huge. She’s wearing a green pork pie hat with two red cherries and a bit of tinsel stuck to the side and is dressed in a velvet green two-piece jacket and skirt. I wonder if the house isn’t warm enough because she hasn’t taken her hat off.
Underneath the jacket, I can see a cream cardigan helping her keep warm. She’s quite a chubby lady and adores me because I am her first grandchild. She has some white pearls around her neck, a Christmas present from my Grandfather Sam. He’s not my real grandfather but has always been in my life. Her lips are painted a bright red, and she has a pair of flat, black shoes and beige-coloured stockings on. They remind me of the stocking I was given the night before to hang on the bottom of my bed. My sister had the other leg of the stocking to hang on her bed.
To my left is the kitchen. I can see the back of the second of these extraordinary ladies, Mum. She’s busy peeling sprouts, and my grandmother reminds her to put little crosses on the bottom of each sprout with the knife. I wonder why the sprouts must be crossed. As if by magic, my mother asks the question. Because that’s what your grandmother did with sprouts at Christmas, my grandmother replies.
I can see lots of steam from various pots boiling away on the stove, and the house smells of ‘roast dinner.’ But I’d rather delve into some of the selection boxes I’d been given that morning. Full of yummy chocolate, I’d much rather eat chocolate than cooked dinner.
Mum is wearing a green and red festive dress and a new pair of slippers, which are tartan green and have cream-coloured fur inside them. She continues to talk to my grandmother about how long it will be before the men return from the pub.
Behind me, I can hear a baby stir. My baby sister, Jayne, is the third of these special ladies in my life. She doesn’t understand what day it is. Stupid girl, I think. You’re missing all the fun.
I look behind me. In the corner sits a small, artificial Christmas tree lit up by colourful Victorian-looking lanterns. I love looking at bright red, green, blue, and yellow lights. I squint my eyes to make the colours blend into each other. For the rest of my life, coloured lights will always be a part of Christmas. The tree is on a small table to prevent me from getting my hands on the pretty foil-wrapped chocolates which hang from some of its branches. There are no gifts under the tree because they’ve all been opened, most of which are scattered across the living room floor.
Jayne starts to cry, and my grandmother gets up and peeks inside the carrycot while my mother continues to prepare dinner. Besides me, I notice some of the selection boxes my mother forgot to move, one of which is opened. On the front of each selection box is a picture of Father Christmas in his sleigh, pulled by some reindeer over some snowy roofs and chimney pots of houses. The scene on the boxes gives me a peaceful, snug, cosy, happy feeling.
Pictures of the various chocolate bars and sweets inside the box are displayed on the back of each box. To my grandmother’s dismay, I’ve eaten most of the contents of the opened box. She tells Mum that I won’t want to eat my Christmas dinner! She’s right. I’d much rather have chocolate for dinner.
On the ceiling are two colourful honeycomb paper bells, one just above me and the other down the room’s far end. When taken down, unclipped, and closed, they both look like the shape of a boot, the type of boot my mother wears when going out. When taking them down from the ceiling, my father would always say how when folded back, they reminded him of a country called Italy and that one day he would like to take us all there for a holiday. Only I ever made it to Italy.
My grandmother and Mum continue to talk while I play with one of the toys delivered the night before. It’s a spinning top that makes a whirling noise when I push down on the handle. Letting go, I watch with amazement as all the colours on the toy merge into each other.
Mum eventually comes into the room with two small glasses of sherry and hands one to my grandmother. Even though I am just coming up to school age, I already know that these three special people will be the three most important ladies in my life and that the date will always be special to me.
“Merry Christmas,’ says my grandmother as she raises her glass.
“Yes, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday, Hugh,” replies my mother.
Hugh W. Roberts – Social Media and other links.
Blog: Hugh’s Views and News