We’ve done it, we’ve decorated the house! School is over at last, and the holidays have begun.
Ours is not an immaculately decorated house and we follow no particular theme, just lots of natural elements from the garden, plenty of twinkling white lights and our treasured decorations, the same ones each year. It started with a wreath I made from magnolia cuttings and sprigs of juniper
and then more greenery to decorate the stairs.
Jack and I chose the miniature conifers last week at the garden centre, the same shop that sells lots of wine!
Decorating the tree is always a big deal; it is never going to be quick or simple as we have raised a tribe of children who know their own minds and who are not afraid to say what they think, at least not amongst the family. Everyone has an opinion about which bauble goes where and it’s a long evening with a party like atmosphere; the old stone walls of the sitting room reverberate to the sound of favourite Christmas songs, and when Slade’s “So here it is, Merry Christmas” finally winds up on the playlist then we all start to get a little silly. I like to think it’s relatively organised chaos!
To insure ourselves against broken baubles and shrill screams Roddy and I find it best to be armed with a glass of red wine!
Placing the star on top of the tree is a serious business, and the children take it in turns. This year the honour fell to Gigi; it’s only the second time in her life that she has had this highly responsible job, and it’s just as well Roddy has broad shoulders and is as strong as an ox.
And eventually our perfectly imperfect Christmas tree is finished.
Every decoration tells its own story. Some are ornaments we have bought together, and others are the many beautiful figures given to us by a very dear friend in Connecticut; some of these are sadly broken or chipped, having fallen victim to eager little hands, hard tiled floors, and voyages across tempestuous seas. But they still go on the tree, their imperfections merely adding to the memories.
Each year I carefully unwrap two simple glass balls with a handprint. Made by Hetty and Gigi when they were in kindergarten, with the same teacher, one year apart. Each has a little poem written on a card, carefully kept with the decorations. Each year it brings tears to my eyes.
These aren’t just five snowmen
As anyone can see
I made them with my hand
Which is a part of me.
Now each year when you trim the tree
You’ll look back and recall
Christmas of 2010
When my hand was just this small!
Our crib takes centre stage on the sideboard. We bought this many years ago in Provence, taking literally hours to choose each individual figurine; they are called ‘santons‘, the name santon or santoun means little saint. These little figures are hand-made in Provence, sculpted and decorated by a master santon maker.
Our kitchen has taken on a white theme in places
and the table is finally free from school books.
The children will put their stockings at the foot of their beds on Christmas Eve, waiting for Father Christmas to arrive. It’s a tradition that follows the childhoods of both Roddy and I, and like I used to all those years ago, the children tell me how they nearly always wake at some stage in the middle of the night and wriggle their toes, to see if they can feel something hard against their feet – a sure sign “he” has visited! It’s a comforting thought, I remember it only too well, and they fall back asleep until the first of the five of them stirs. He or she will wake the others, and they will all come running into our room and all five children unwrap their stocking presents on our bed, usually with two dogs snoring gently in the corner and two parents watching with somewhat bleary eyes!