Christmas tugs at all the memories of the past, those rituals and traditions we set up as a family that we separately and together remember, what was special and what we must carry on into the future.
Our family were more separated than usual this year, so it seemed particularly important that at the same time as we were doing different things, to look back with pleasure. Father Christmas in mother’s red dressing gown, eggs blown and painted to hang on the tree, books written and illustrated some fifty years ago for and by small childern. Didn’t we always prepare the turkey stuffing, crumb bread for the sauce, and peel vegetables while listening to the King’s College, Cambridge carol service? So we could still discuss, even those who were not able to hear it for various reasons, the performance of the young choral scholar singing the solo for ‘Once in Royal David’s City.’ We shared over the ether, or up, over and down from a satellite, those times I sent them, my children, from door to selected door playing and singing carols.
The joy of those carols and hymns, whatever one believes, the tunes and words engrained from childhood. Words to delight; ‘In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.’ ‘A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of year …’, and on and on. ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ with those fantastically named reindeer or the subversive Raymond Briggs ‘Father Christmas’.
As this year I stepped into the snow of a Russian winter with Chekov short stories, I specially remember a Boxing Day spent engrossed in ‘Of Mice and Men’.
Words and pictures, people and song.