Theres a hustle and bustle of bodies, all cramming into the house. People have parked miles down the road and march to the gate in the crisp wintry air, clutching treats and festively wrapped gifts. The doorbell doesn’t need to go because they’ve been spotted coming up the garden path and the great flurry of welcomes started half way down it.
Someones immediately trying to get a tea order down.
The kids are getting organised so they don’t get trodden on by the men, who are tactfully pacing the hallway and staying out of sight of both the children and their wives, whilst keeping an ear out for the television in the back room telling the vacant area the football scores. There’s about thirty conversations going on at once, everyone is delving into each of them, whilst more and more people arrive. Kids are running up and down the stairs and with the customary commentary of; ‘Elephants on the stairs!’ Food is coming in and out of the kitchen, its been like this since 8am with different dishes taking the pass-the-parcel route to the dining room.
The biscuit tin is obviously a major part of this.
Everyone’s got their finest clothes on, glittery tights for the girls and all the boys have been forced into button up shirts; outfits no doubt given the day before and out in full festive force today. As the family has grown over the years, so does the pile under the tree, with lashings of decorative paper settling around the room like colourful paper snow.
The kids are entranced by their new toys, shrieking in delight and smiling for the cameras with their new playful trophies. Presents are handed around, thank you’s are delivered and smiles rest happily on each of the faces in the room.
Food has been being prepared not since this morning, but for months. There have been numerous food shops going on since mid October, every need being catered for, every merry want and indulgence present. Times have sadly yet brilliantly evolved, and where there was once the feast of a roast dinner that was made and dished up with military precision, with multiple age defined sittings, there was then an all day buffet that never dwindled and remained in a consistent state of ‘piled high’. There would be a minimum of five different desserts, each being offered to everyone in the house before a certain someone would even consider taking a seat, where it was then remembered that a whole salmon was still in the freezer.
Everyone would peel off to their own traditional areas, feeling cosy and warm in this architectural embrace of family. The TV would come on and some would settle to watch a a festive film of radio times defined scheduling, (once the football was finished of course), some would be in the kitchen cleaning, tidying, chatting and of course making more tea. Some would just sit and talk, some would play with their new toys, and some would just observe in quiet content at the success of another year. Wrapping paper would be collected, piles of new possessions made, photos taken at every opportunity and long conversations had.
As the evening would wear on, people would slowly begin to say their goodbyes full to the brim with food and no doubt laden with containers of it to take home. Hugging and thanking each other for another years celebration. Farewells were had, happy and content in a day well spent. Eventually, only some would be left, someone would stick the kettle on and get the biscuit tin back out, and force Grandad into a chair to finally catch his breath.
A date in the diary that never needs to be written down, always in mind and never forgotten.
Boxing Day; A family tradition.
It has gone for many years without saying, that Boxing Day was a day to be spent at our Grandparent’s house in hearty Hounslow. Nana would cook an all mighty roast, with the help of her sous chef Grandad of course, laden with vegetables from his allotment, and with desserts than can never be bettered by any chef.
The entire family would squeeze into their front room, a joy in itself, ready for the great present unveiling. As the family steadily expanded so did the size of the dinner, and the need for multiple courses and sittings. Kids round first, and then the adults. As the years went on, our great love was lost with our beautiful Nana, but our Grandad, with the bravest soul, and the biggest heart soldiered on.
He had a few moments; one with freshly painted luminous green walls.
But he kept the family heart, and always, the boxing day tradition.
These memories of our family are the brightest.
Making the decision not to return home from travelling to say goodbye to our Grandad was the hardest I think I have ever made, and it is one I did not take on lightly. In fact, it was one of the worst moments I have experienced. Many will not see this as an appropriate setting to my dedication to him. But as both a granddaughter and a writer, the need to make everyone out there read about the man I saw and knew as extraordinary is palpable.
Not only was he my grandfather, but he was my friend. In moments when I was not proud of myself, he looked at me like he could not have been prouder, and I will miss him every day, for the rest of my life.
Toward the end, he, like so many other unfortunate people, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A condition both he and my family dealt with admirably and bravely. This did not define him, and in the days following his passing, my family created a Facebook group in which hundreds of pictures were shared of him, and also our Nana, and all of us remembered him as he was before the disease was present in our lives.
That being said, every week when I would visit my Grandad, he would always greet me with such a smile, and always with the side note to the other residents;
‘I have to go, my granddaughter is here to see me’.
I felt like royalty every single time.
So this is my dedication to our incredible, wonderful Grandad. So many things could be said about him, how good he was, how funny he was, how loving he was. But the most important thing to me, is that he just ‘was’.
What follows, is a list of just some of the things that will forever make me think of him, that no doubt will grow longer every day.
Lemon curd sandwiches
Lemonade with orange squash
Mint Imperials in the car, in the little dish in the house, everywhere
Elephants going up the stairs
Jumping on the bed
Cups of tea and the round of the biscuit tin
One pound coins
The little gold clock
The once luminous green walls
A Muppet Christmas Carol
Tunnocks caramel wafers
Big red cameras
Fresh coconut cracked open in a vice in the shed
Being called darling
Always and forever; flowers