Christmas 2016 was not one to be repeated.
On paper it should have been something to look forward to, a time to cherish with my boys. P had told me, in no uncertain terms, that when I ended things with him I had ruined Christmas for him forever. With that in mind I would “need to have the children for the big day.” No big problem, you would think, but he had always made me feel like a failure at Christmas so any joy that I may have brought from my own childhood had been reduced to zero over our marriage. The confidence I had in making it a nice day for the boys was not high. Add to that his desperately sad Facebook post on Christmas day 2015, and my eldest spent the build up to the festivities worrying about his dad.
What about M? He would be around, surely?
The plan was that he would spend Christmas eve with his mum and the day with his dad, who had just lost his wife to cancer. Then he would hot foot it up the coast to spend Christmas night and boxing day with me and the boys. I was always excited to see him, and I knew the boys would wrap him up in festive fun. M was as enthusiastic about Christmas as I was, and when he called me one lunchtime with a strained voice I knew something was up. There was an offer to join a friend of his to deliver a yacht from Portugal to the uk. He didn’t know whether he should go, or if he needed to stay and fulfill his duties as son and boyfriend. I gave him my blessing, genuinely excited by this opportunity. A little jealous perhaps, but genuinely happy for his opportunity. Once he had built up the courage to talk to his family they were all happy for him too.
As the dutiful girlfriend I drove him and his friend to the airport, dropping them in the car park before heading on my way.
One message pinged through before I was 5 miles away:
Thank you for bringing me, and being so wonderfully you. I hope you are not too sad, show me your smile. xxx
To which I responded with a quick selfie, of me trying to smile with wet eyes. I had a few hours to kill so I went on a mini adventure of my own to a nearby seaside town where I could have a cuppa and a walk on the beach. Sitting down to a steaming brew after a long cold walk I opened my phone. First thing was a message:
My beautiful girl. 🙂 Fire alarms, airport evacuated, delayed flight. Off again now. I’ll let you know when I’m safely landed. I love you xxx
Then I tapped my Facebook app as I sipped the cup of brown liquid. M had updated his profile picture. There I was! The picture I had sent him just a couple of hours ago. That put a smile on my face.
Getting home, still smiling and feeling loved, I collected the boys.
They had been with P, for their first Christmas. Hyped up, full of sugar and singing daddy’s praises I got them to bed. Two more days to the big day and they were only going to get more excitable, as children do! By Christmas eve I was feeling overwhelmed. Getting them to bed on the night before christmas was such a challenge. Then I had to organise the presents and by the time midnight slipped past I was in floods of tears. Dreading the noise and excitement of the following day, missing M, just wanting a cuddle… And to top it all off I had burnt my red cabbage trying to get ahead of the game! A game I didn’t want to play, but that I felt it was expected of me.
Surrounded by wrapping paper and piles of gifts my phone suddenly began to ring.
Through the tears and the snot I answered the phone. He was just pulling in to harbour where the two of them would be resting and collecting the third sailor for the long stretch home. He missed me and wanted to say hello as he knew how hard I would be finding the preparations. We chatted about the boat and his crew mate as well as how his journey was going so far. With his voice in my heart I slept well and woke to the excited voices of two little boys who had received a visit from father Christmas.
The day was as difficult as I had expected.
Excited children and my grumpy mum. My home filled up with my brother and his family mid-afternoon, just when all I wanted was to shut the doors and regain some calm again. More food, more gifts, more excited children. And one more phone call from M, who had spent the day trying to cook a roast dinner as they sailed across the bay of Biscay. Now they were all sat on the deck eating together, and he was in range of masts so could talk to me and the boys. Somehow that grounded me enough to get through the rest of the day until, with the boys in bed and the dishes done I was able to sit down quietly and chill out. Stretching out on the sofa I flicked on the Christmas news and saw that George Michael had died. This was all the encouragement I needed to let out the tears which I had been holding back all day.
Surely the next year would be better?