I reckon Her Maj had it right when she pointed out that to say Christmas is all about the children is only half the story - it is actually about we grown-ups somehow connecting with the child inside us. I’ve never
had any difficulty with this, personally, though Mr B occasionally complains that I am for ever going OTT. At Christmas-time, I stand unashamed in my festive hat, all prepared to be a child again. If I do have to act like a grown-up, as in when I need to cook
the dinner, then I can rely on my Imaginary Child to keep the festive feeling alive while I prepare sprouts and Baste the Bird.
Last year, with Mr B seriously
ill in hospital, it was difficult to locate my Inner Child on Christmas Day. This year I had no such trouble, being joined on Christmas Eve by the Rascally Trio and their proud mamma, the Middle of the Darling Daughters. First of all was a trip to the panto
(“Oh, yes there was!”) Interestingly, the Rascals had never been to a panto before so when their mother and I started on the “Oh, yes, we did” / “Oh, no you didn’t” routine, along with assorted assertions that “He’s
behind you!” they surveyed us with puzzled looks, clearly thinking we were quite, quite crazy. It didn’t take them long to get the message. Then it was off to Soft Play for the Trio while I returned to keep Mr B company - the idea being to run
off excess energy before the Christmas Eve bedtime rituals. We are talking about the Rascals’ excess energy, you understand, Mr B and I were still looking for ours, somewhere under the Christmas tree.
Before our Christmas Eve dinner, there were name cards to fashion so we all knew where to sit, plus a secret stocking for their mother. I had made the mistake of asking the Trio for ideas about appropriate gifts - “just
small presents,” I urged them. “She likes jewellery,” they said, “And perfume…” Fortunately by the time they came to wrap up the (small) gifts, they were far too excited by the prospect of using the greatest possible ratio
of sellotape to wrapping paper to start calculating the cost. It is, I told them as they pushed each gift into the stocking, even more fun to give than to receive. They eyed me, askance, eyes swivelling from me to the presents nestling under the Christmas
tree. I WAS joking, they didn’t quite ask me…
Over Christmas Eve dinner, we invented new names for Santa’s reindeer - Starry, Sprinkles, Jingles
and Snowy were my favourites. This game quickly descended into nonsense as the Trio arrived at ever more comical names, including Cupidy, Stupidy, and Mooney. My Inner Child delighted in the ridiculousness of it all.
Christmas morning they were up with the lark but weren’t allowed to wake me until 7 a.m. Then I insisted we all trail downstairs so that their Grandad didn’t miss out in watching the fun. Even then they couldn’t
start on the Great Unwrapping because their mother thought she should make some coffee to sustain us through the next half-hour. While we waited for the kettle to boil, I introduced the Trio to a great new game I had invented called “Shake, Rattle and
Roll” which involved shaking each present in turn to see if it rattled or rolled. I’m good at inventing new games, though I say so myself as shouldn’t. My game, excellent though it might (or might not) have been, came to an extremely
abrupt end when the Trio’s mother came back into the room, bearing steaming mugs of coffee, and announcing: “Ready, Steady, Go!”
All too soon,
sacks emptied, new clothes donned and the presents under the tree distributed (to great acclaim, I’m pleased to say) it was time for them to go - home to their father, more presents, another Christmas dinner. It was extremely quiet without them, I feared
that my Inner Child had disappeared in the car along with them.
Until, that is, I opened the present from my brother which included a letter and the words of a
poem our dear mother often read to us, especially at bedtime. It’s by a largely forgotten Scottish poet called Alexander Anderson (1845 - 1909) and is called “The Bairnies.” It begins: “The bairnies cuddle doon at night / wi muckle
fraught and din” and tells the story of a mother desperately trying to get her three children to sleep before their father arrives home from work. Her attempts to persuade young Jamie, Tam and Rab to “cuddle doon” is just like trying to persuade
Lilia (younger of the Twins by one important minute) to go to sleep on Christmas Eve before Santa heads down our chimney.
“It’s a poem full of love,
just like Mum,” my brother writes - and even as I read (through teary eyes) the words on the printed page I can hear my dear mum’s gentle voice re-telling the story to my Little Sister and me.
I am (oh, yes, I am) a child again…