Today our eldest granddaughter Katie helped us to mark a rather special anniversary.
It wasn’t a birthday or a wedding
anniversary, or even the anniversary of the day someone met a Special Person. It did, however, mark the twentieth anniversary of a rather important First Time. It was the twentieth anniversary of the very first time our Katie, then aged four and a half, helped
us decorate our Christmas tree. Katie has changed rather a lot since that day, the Christmas tree rather less so. It must be said that over the years there is a certain sameness about the Ball Family Christmas Tree…
Twenty years ago was the first year that Katie came to stay with us for a few precious, always remembered days before Christmas. Over the years it became a Christmas tradition; for the first few years
it was just Katie, then there were the years when she was joined by her younger sister Eleanor, followed by the years when it was Eleanor alone. It helped out their mother, the Eldest of the Darling Daughters, with child care though Mr B and I needed no excuse
to welcome them into our house and home at the most magical time of the year.
The great thing about a short Christmas break with the grandchildren is that
there is always plenty to keep them occupied. There was the pantomime or a Christmas show for starters - Mr B (aka Grandad) was renowned for always booking the very best seats at whatever theatre we were gracing with our presence. (In recent years when this
task has been of necessity delegated to me, I have fallen far short of his exacting standards.) We always fitted in a visit to Father Christmas, too, and found time to bake sausage rolls and mince pies. I still love the memory of Katie painstakingly writing
out the recipe for short crust pastry, including the memorable instruction: “Do fingertips!”
Perhaps the most special activity, however, was the annual
decoration of the Christmas tree - and, as I have already mentioned, this year marked the twentieth anniversary of the first time we did this together. There was one thing we couldn’t manage to re-create. In the Olden Days, the girls’ favourite
moment was when their Grandad, having retrieved all the decorations from the loft, took the large cardboard box containing the Christmas tree and sent it sliding all the way down the stairs, accompanied by loud cheers from the three of us waiting in the hall
below for it to arrive at our feet. Today it is the same Christmas tree but its branches have been decanted into carrier bags, for simpler storage and easier retrieval.
In previous years, Eleanor has visited to help with the tree decoration which has been greatly appreciated by Yours Truly because there is something rather sad about decorating a Christmas tree on your own. This year, for several reasons, this wasn’t
possible - but sister Katie had arranged to visit and could surely be called on to Do The Honours. It was only this morning, while waiting for her to arrive, that the exquisite timing suddenly occurred to me.
It wasn’t All About The Tree. We took the Pulse bus into town because that was what we always did. We checked out the Christmas decorations in town, paid homage to the Dome Cinema where once
upon a time we watched a film called “Hotel for Dogs” and where I disgraced myself by being the only person ever known to cry during this particular film. The Usher Gene sure has a lot to answer for. We also enjoyed a companionable time over
lunch in a local eaterie where the balance shifted as my granddaughter insisted on treating me, reminding me of all the times her Grandad and I had treated her in the past. We watched the waves crashing in to the shore, the legacy of Storm Barra which fortunately
had died down this morning, so not putting Katie’s visit in jeopardy.
Back home, Mr B watched on as we carefully constructed the tree, fitting each twiggy
branch into the correct hole and draping the whole round with red berry lights which, thank goodness, worked first time. Then we were busy unpacking the box containing all the baubles collected over the years, every one a memory. Atop the tree, the cardboard
reindeer manufactured in 2007 by our eldest grandson, Jack. Every year since then, the reindeer has held onto its commanding place on the topmost branch - our Christmas tree just wouldn’t be the same without it. Finally, Katie drew the traditional
sign, ensuring that in the future everyone would know that this was our 2021 tree.
Somewhere, I pondered, as I waved our special girl away at the end of her visit,
I must have a photo of the 2001 tree. I need to find it.
The tree won’t have changed much over the years. But then, nor has the love…