It’s an interesting thing, different people’s perception of the same thing. A few weeks ago (too early to tell you about it then), Weeza and I were talking about childhood Christmases. I recalled my careful time plan that scheduled in several stops during the morning, so that I could spend time with her and her brothers, so we could open presents, play with new games and they wouldn’t be left, as I was as a child, with my mother in the kitchen working all morning and becoming very harassed while the rest of us hung around disconsolately out of her way, not allowed to open any parcels because that was a whole-family activity and when, after the meal, she spent the rest of the day in the kitchen again while we had to be quiet because of all the elderly people who were invited to spend the day, sometimes several days, with us, who didn’t want to be bothered by excited children.
I was convinced that I hadn’t made this mistake. I kept everything simple. Everything possible was done in advance and I had my schedule to be sure that everything would be perfectly cooked at the same time. Even so, there was a lot to do, but I always thought that I was relaxed and gave the children my full attention for half an hour at a time, until noon when, our other guests having arrived (always my mum and stepfather, normally my sister and her husband when she had one, sometimes another person), I brought in champagne and we sat down for an hour, chatted and opened presents together, and then I went and did the rest of the cooking.
The thing is, I’d always found Christmas Day a slight let-down. Eagerly looked forward to, of course, but I really wanted my mother there. I didn’t care about the vast meal, the huge turkey with two stuffings and a dry breast, the whole ham, loads of vegetables and then a massive Christmas pudding that no one liked which was later fed to the birds. Looking back, I’m not sure what took all the time. She always decorated and laid the table several days in advance, so we couldn’t use the dining room, the meat took hours of being largely left to its own devices – yet she was always busy. Actually, to tell the truth, she was terribly hard-working, but I’ve wondered since just how efficient she was. I’m very lazy, so have to use my time cannily to have plenty left to do sod-all, but I suspect she was the opposite.
My reasoning was – that the family would miss me if I wasn’t with them much of the time. That I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. That it was a good idea to open a few presents at a time, because of the feeding frenzy that children can’t resist, left to themselves, so there’s ten excited minutes while paper is ripped off, then the flatness of being surrounded by a whole load of stuff, no more parcels and a mother getting cross because they didn’t take any notice of who gave what, which makes thank-you letters awkward. I thought I’d got a pretty good compromise, and it took care and planning, giving them my full attention when there were things to be done.
Weeza’s recollection is different. She remembers the frustration of only being allowed to open one thing at a time and then having to wait until the next break in my time plan. Her friends did the feeding frenzy and that was what she’d have preferred too.