Within a month, the boys returned to Australia and they came to stay with me for a week. I wanted to do Christmas then, but they said not to bother. Christmas had been horrible and boring (not because of the way they had celebrated with their father, but because of the fact that we were not all together) and they felt it was best to just forget it for that year.
Barry ended up staying with me for good after that visit, but Daniel returned to his father. Another Christmas came around, and Gary, Barry and I invented a new tradition.
Gary was the complete opposite to me and Barry. He hates the hype of Christmas and isn’t interested in trees and lights. He happily helped bring in all the boxes, but that’s where his job ended and ours began.
Barry would press play on the CD player, Christmas songs would fill the room. Gary would roll his eyes and make a quick exit and then Barry and I would begin assembling the tree.
In all honesty, nothing much changed. I still had the job of putting the lights onto the tree first. Every year, Barry would pick up the first length of tinsel, grin at me, and say, “I know, drape don’t wrap.” We went through the same procedure – lights, tinsel, ornaments, star, Santa.
At some stage, Barry or I would corner Gary and force him into helping. Gary, grudgingly, would pick up an ornament, place it on the tree and then say, “There, I’ve helped”, before he disappeared again.
Only two things changed. One was the number of presents under the tree. Before, when the boys were young, they would get lots of cheaper priced presents. They didn’t cost a fortune, but it looked a look under the tree. But now, the boys were older and cheaper presents didn’t cut it anymore. They no longer would be seen in public in cheap “no-name” clothing, it had to be the best – the most expensive. They didn’t want cheap cardboard games, or plastic swords, or cloth tents anymore. They wanted expensive Playstation games, or the latest release DVD’s and music CD’s instead. In reality, I spent more money on them than I ever had in the past, but they had little to show for it.
The other thing to change was how we celebrated the day itself. We no longer lived by the beach. In fact, we lived inland. It was hotter and drier than ever before. Cooking lots of meat no longer appealed to me, because of the heat. I had been the organiser of Christmas for many years, because I wanted it to be special for my children, but I suddenly wanted a break from this tradition too. No one else wanted to do it, so we decided to have Christmas lunch at a restaurant instead.
These are two small changes, but they made a huge difference. My boys were older; the magic wasn’t quite as alive as it had been before. On Christmas morning the room didn’t overflow with presents. And sitting in a restaurant isn’t as pleasant as sitting on a beach.
The Christmas spirit had started to fade.
What made it worse was the fact that Daniel always had Christmas lunch with his father, and Barry always had Christmas lunch with me. They missed each other, but they didn’t want to have to chose between two parents they loved. It breaks my heart to think about that, but they refused to do it any other way. However, I did see both the boys on Christmas Day. Daniel would come over in the morning, or (more likely) in the late afternoon. Afterwards, Barry would go with Daniel to see his dad, so it’s not like I never saw Daniel on Christmas Day.
Continued in Part 5