Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Twelfth night and the end of Christmas

I know it’s Twelfth Night and that I should be taking down the decorations and the tree. But I feel strangely reluctant to do so.

When I was a child I experienced everything as alive and felt so sorry for things that were broken and unwanted and being thrown away. But i don’t think it’s that. It’s not a memory of that old feeling; it’s not that i feel particularly sorry for the Christmas tree. (Though I do, a little bit…)

It’s more that I like it, in this dark time, shining its brave little lights out into the darkness.

Part of that darkness for me is my past; and all those Christmases when I felt as if I didn’t belong. Didn’t belong to my family and also, somehow, didn’t have a place in the world.

Maybe this was because my three brothers were so much bigger and older than me; or maybe it was because I always wanted girls’ toys and never dared ask for them and so was always being given things like boxing gloves or construction sets or racing cars and had to pretend to like them.

When me and my lover got together and eventually started to have children we knew that when we were small we had both suffered from a deep sense of being shamefully wrong. A feeling that in some sense we had deeply hurt and disappointed our parents and so not been worthy of love.

We knew without having to talk about it that when it came to our children we would do all we could to love them whatever. That they didn’t have to be good or clever or artistic or anything. We might get cross sometimes, but we would always love them.

I remember the story of the Three Wise Men coming to see the baby Jesus on this night with their amazing and spectacularly useless gifts. All the more precious, I imagine, because they were so useless. And instead were beautiful.

And I think of how in Spain, maybe in Portugal and Brazil too, this is the night when children are given their presents. 

Because that’s one of the things children are for us: a promise of freedom from the hurts of the past  and a new, fresh and innocent future.

And I will take the tree down tomorrow, I promise I will.

But for now I want to remember my grandson seeing this tree for the very first time, with his face lit up in awe and wonder.

And I’m feeling something like this tonight, hoping in spite of everything, as I write these words to defy the cold darkness.

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