My father was a lovely man who experienced the joy of Christmas through his children: my younger sister and I. My mother was an angry narcissist who really could never get over the fact that Christmas was not all about her and seemed to resent the effort my father made to make each Christmas special for me and my sister.
Dad clearly went over the top. He must have spent weeks planning presents, fare, and festivities. My mother often complained that if my father had as much as the odd pound left in his pocket on Christmas Eve he would obsess as to what he might spend it on for his children.
But Dad’s preparations did not stop there. He was determined to stage-manage the whole Christmas experience. The plan was for Father to wait until we were asleep, and then sneak into our rooms and arrange the presents in such a way that his children would awake in Santa’s grotto. Unfortunately, being children we did not assist in the execution of this plan. We would go to bed and enquire of our parents every 15 minutes or so whether ‘he’ (Father Christmas) had been yet. This would go on all night and we would not sleep, but Father was determined to stay up until we were. My guess is that around about 4:00 or 5:00 AM we did go to sleep, to wake probably less than an hour later in Santa’s grotto. We would then stampede into our parents’ bedroom amidst much excitement that ‘he’ had been.
No doubt the reader will see the fatal flaw in my father’s plan: I doubt he got an hour’s sleep on Christmas Eve.
My father’s next move was to begin preparing the traditional Christmas dinner (late lunch, actually), which seemed to go on all day. My father was an enthusiastic cook but very rarely got the opportunity to do so due to the fact that he worked such long hours. He took great pleasure in preparing the Christmas dinner. Unfortunately my father was also what I think it is fair to describe as a messy cook, using every pot, pan, and pestle to achieve his end.
Eventually Christmas dinner arrived, and what a feast it was. The feast consumed, my sister and I were anxious to play with the multitude of our new toys. With increasing anticipation we had to wait whilst the mountain of utensils was cleared away and washed up, and then Father would sit in an armchair and begin to snore loudly.
That was pretty much it for the rest of the day apart from my sister and I attempting to wake Dad and him emitting the odd grunt and growl. We never got to play with him on Christmas Day. My mother in the meantime would helpfully explain that she was unable to play with us because that’s not what mummies did; that’s what daddies did, and Daddy was asleep.
I cannot speak for my sister, but the tragedy from my point of view is that I would have happily foregone some of the stage management for the pleasure of playing with my father on Christmas Day. When I think back now I can hardly remember any of the gifts I received, but I can remember the disappointment of not spending time with my dad.
Time is the scarcest resource of all that a parent has to give his children, but time is the only thing that endures.