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T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house… Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.. The stockings were hung on the chimney with care….. with hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there..

Oh I miss those times! Christmas Eve, getting the kids off to bed early after making sure Santa had a drink and something to eat when he arrived.   There were the reindeer to think of too, so carrots were a must.  Once they were asleep, I could pour myself a glass of wine and just relax before I started wrapping presents.  The glow of the colored, twinkling lights on the Christmas tree, the peace & quiet, the smell of pine and the crackle of excitement still in the air from tiny little hearts waiting for Santa to arrive.  Without a doubt the most beautiful time of the year.

I relished that time to myself.  Christmas Eve was… and still is, my own thanksgiving.  It’s the one time of year that I always look around at what I have and give thanks. Not that I’m not thankful all the time, but I think there is a magic about Christmas that emphasises feelings. The traditions, the music, the lights, the color and the excitement all add to the emotions.

I remember one year, Aimee was ready to stop believing in Santa.. there was some doubt in her mind.  It was the poorest Christmas I had ever had.  I had just separated and shifted out of the family home so it could be sold. I was still paying the mortgage, the second mortgage, the overdraft, the personal loan and the credit card my ex husband had run up.  On top of that, I was paying rent in the place we’d shifted into.  I was working but there was nothing left over at the end of the week.  Christmas was a week away and I had $60 to buy presents for my kids, family & friends as well as have Christmas dinner at my house.

I was distraught at how I was going to cope.  The kids were 4, 6 & 7.  Way too young to experience disappointment at Christmas.  They didn’t deserve to have the magic shattered. I felt like the worst mother in the world, not being able to provide for them. I was beating myself up until I saw a DIY christmas bonbon article in a magazine.  They looked shabby but I figured if I involved the kids in the making of them, I could get away with it.  The kids were pumped when I mentioned it to them, so we got busy.

A friend had a collection of paper hats (no idea why) but when I said what I was doing she gave them to me.  I collected all the toilet rolls and asked friends for theirs.  I always have lots of craft stuff around (remember I’m a hoarder) so had pretty paper, ribbons, glitter and glue etc.  I spoke to my niece who worked at McDonalds and she asked the boss if she could have some small happy meal type toys for the trinkets.  We were all set.

We had the best time making the bonbons.  Patsy Biscoes christmas album along with the Peppermint Candy Kids were blaring on the stereo as we cut, pasted, stuffed and laughed our way through about 20 bonbons.  When we’d finished and sat back so proud of our achievements, I realised we had found the true spirit of Christmas.  Bolstered by that spirit, I knew everything else would turn out.

The same niece who worked at McDonald’s, unbeknownst to me, had told her boss how hard life was for me at the time, so he gave her permission to take whatever she wanted from the gift cupboard.  She had caps, keyrings, lego packs, Ronald McDonald stuffed toys… you name it… she grabbed 3 of each.   My brother and sister in law bred rabbits and happened to phone to ask if they could give Aimee one as she had been nagging.  We agreed on two of them, as a surprise.

Family phoned all week to see what they could bring out for Christmas Dinner.  One had won a ham in a raffle so was bringing that.. others had pork, turkey etc.   By the time everyone had decided what they were bringing there wasn’t all that much left for me to have to buy except for vegetables and dessert.  It left me enough money out of my $60 to buy a few stocking stuffers and a couple of small presents for those I needed to buy for.

Christmas morning approached and I was laying in bed, still tired after sitting up late the night before, helping Santa with a few last minute jobs, when I heard the kids up and about.  I lay quiet for a few minutes, knowing they’d creep round first, not wanting to wake me up in case I told them to go back to bed.  They went into the family room and found 2 baby bunnies hopping around the room.  The squeals of excitement were enough to wake the dead.

I was just getting out of bed when I heard Aimee say to the boys… “you know I thought Santa wasn’t real… but now I know he is.. coz there’s no way Mum would let us have rabbits..”  I could hear the tearing of paper and the cries of .. “oh wow.. look at this… oh wow… look what I got” … Wow was the word of the day that day.  I wandered out, to be smothered with their attention.. all vying to show me what they got.  Their excitement was, for me, overwhelming.  Mum and I both shed a few tears that day.  Tears of joy… For what had been looking like the worst Christmas of our lives was beginning to take shape.

Once presents were unwrapped, lunch was put on.. and the kids helped me start to set the outside table for lunch.  The day was perfect, weather wise, so we were eating out on the verandah.  We put tablecloths on… got the tinsel out…. picked heaps of ivy from the garden and intertwined ivy and tinsel and laid it down the middle of the table.  We put our handmade bonbons out plus a few other decorations we had made and the table was set.  Yes it did look home made.. but it looked home made with love.

The kids played happily with their rabbits in the back yard while Mum and I finished preparing lunch.  People started arriving. The noise levels started to build and the table was laden with food.  Christmas Day was here with a vengeance.  We ate, we laughed, we played.. all in all we had a ball.  There was a totem tennis championship… there were water bomb fights.. Another niece’s husband had produced water pistols and so there were water pistol fights.  It was one of the best days of my life.

That night, when everyone had gone home, the kids were showered and in their jammies ready for bed.. they all said that it was the best Christmas they had ever had.  They loved all the stuff they got.. they loved the fun.. they loved the food.. and they were ever so proud of their bonbons.  They didn’t notice that the presents were all from McDonalds.. They didn’t notice the rabbits were the same ones Uncle Pat & Auntie Lyn bred.  All they noticed was they were surrounded by people who loved them and they had a great fun day.  Santa had given them exactly what they wanted (or at least what they wanted once they’d seen it) and all was right with their world.

After they were in bed, Mum and I both talked about what really matters where kids are concerned.  It isn’t the high price tag.. It isn’t the top end toys.. It isn’t getting everything on their list.. It’s about the magic.  It’s about the footprints in talcum powder that looks like snow… It’s about the half eaten carrots the reindeer left.. It’s about going to bed with nothing under the tree and waking up to a sea of presents (regardless of what they are).. It’s about family and friends.. It’s about laughter and fun..It’s about being allowed to eat the chocolate in your stocking before you eat breakfast.   It’s even about getting away with stuff on Christmas Day (like waterbombing your mum) that you wouldn’t try any other day of the year.  It’s about Christmas!

Over the years, we’ve had other lean Christmas’s but never as bad as that one was financially.. but regardless of how much it cost or didn’t cost.. It was our best Christmas ever.  Since then, we’ve tried to always have extras at our dinner table to share the joy of Christmas Day.  There was usually someone around who didn’t have anyone to spend Christmas Day with.  Noone should be alone on Christmas Day… and there is always too much food so why not share it.  I think it’s taught my kids the true meaning of Christmas.. to love and to share!

Last year I had the privilege of spending Christmas Day with my penfriend from childhood.  After all those years, we finally got to meet and spend my favorite day of the year together with our families.  My only sadness that day was that Stuart wasn’t with us.  I’m sure it must have been a complete culture shock for them to come from a Swedish climate to our hot and dry Christmas.  They brought bottles of Schnapps for us and taught us the drinking song.  We had a great day and it was another of my favorite Christmas’s of all time.

This year, we’ve been invited to a friend’s house for lunch and are really looking forward to it.. Once again, Stuart won’t be with us for Christmas and it always makes me a bit sad as my boys are my life but I was down seeing him and Sarah on Saturday just gone and had an early lunch with them and some other friends and family.  It will be nice to be part of my friend’s Christmas Day and I have still stuck with some traditions and am bringing my Yuletide log (chocolate ripple cake).. oh and wine of course.  🙂

If I could have anything at all for Christmas it would be one more moment with those who have left this life.  I wish I could buy a present for my girl and give her one more  hug.  I wish I could hear Mum’s girlie giggle one more time as she laughed at something one of the kids said.  My Dad, my grandmother and of course my Auntie who passed away recently, along with other uncles, cousins, friends and a much loved brother in law.   It is my Christmas wish and although i know it can’t happen, I still make the wish.  But I think of them, I thank God for the time I had them all, I shed a tear for myself as I miss them and then I celebrate the life I have today.  I especially thank God for my sons.. they are without doubt, two of the most amazing people on earth and that is a totally unbiased statement lol.

To you and yours, wherever you are, I hope Christmas Day is a happy, joyfilled, laughter inspired day for you.   It’s just turned midnight here, so I must go to bed and listen for sleigh bells on the roof.  Merry Christmas and may 2013 be your best year ever.  I know it’s going to be a fantastic one for me.  I look forward to sharing the journey with you for many more Christmas’s to come.

Happy Celebrating…. Livvy 🙂

And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight… Merry Christmas to all.. and to all…. a good night 🙂

My Christmas wish