Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Christmas

This is a post for Josie's writing workshop at Sleep is For the Weak. I chose prompt 4. Become the ghost of Christmas past – share a story from a childhood Christmas.

My Christmases past all seem to distill themselves into 1984. The year that Band Aid went to Christmas number one, Last Christmas by Wham came second, and I was fourteen. Maybe it is because these songs endured so well that I am so often transported back to that time during the Christmas season.

I had started a new school that year, and I bought my new friends a wall calender of the Band Aid group as a present. I had rushed to Woolworths to buy the single the minute it was pressed, and actually have a very early edition of it that lacks the group photo on the back. I watched the video again today to enhance the nostalgia, and instead of the warm fuzzy feeling I expected, instead I noted for the first time how few women were involved. If such an effort happened today it would surely have far more female artists. I was struck by how times have changed, and how long ago 1984 really was. On the other hand if it was made today many fewer of the men would be wearing full make up. Whatever happened to the concept of eyeliner for men becoming mainstream?

I forget now exactly when my sister and I were deemed old enough to attend midnight mass on Christmas eve, but I'm guessing that by 1984 we did. I was never a particularly religious kid, but I loved singing. My sister and I would get lightheaded trying to sing "Gloria in excelsis deo" without taking a breath, or attempting the soprano harmonies for the "sing choirs of Angels" verse of "oh come all ye faithful". Furthur into the decade we would hit the pubs before mass, no doubt enhancing our vocal skills.

Though old enough to have a little sip of baileys after mass in 1984, I was still young enough to hang up my stocking. When I say stocking I mean an actual sock. No custom made velvet sock shaped bags entered our home, Father Christmas stuffed gifts (always starting  with a satsuma orange deep in the toe) into a woolly 'over the knee sock'. Do you remember those impractical items? For some reason we were not allowed to wear tights with out school uniforms, so we wore long socks held up with an elastic band around the thigh, the chilled and blotchy upper portion of which was displayed between one's hitched up school skirt and the top of the sock. I hear parents today dispairing of their teen daughters clothing, but really parents, do you remember how we used to dress in the early 1980s? New clothes featured heavily in our Christmas gifts from our teen years onwards. I remember a soft jumbo corduroy pencil skirt in black that I wore with a fushia printed black jumper, and a pair of winkle picker toed black suede stilletos. Lovely!

My mum and dad still live in the home where we grew up, but since living in America these past fifteen (really, how can it be fifteen)? years I have been home for the season precisely once. It is a time of year when I wish that I could just pop back for the day. I would show my kids the remaining tree ornaments that have survived from my youth, the ones we would carefully unwrap with excitement year after year, arguing over who got to put the long, delicate pink one on the tree, while we played a mixed Christmas tape, recorded from the top 40. I'm wondering now if my mum's carefully made starfall decorations, the ones with threads of foil stars handing from a cane circle that hung from the light fixtures in colours that perfectly matched the purple, turquoise, silver, red and gold carpets we had back in the 1980s, are still around in any form. Bringing out these ornaments was the mark of the beginning of the season, they gave the house such a festive feel and we always felt so sad when the house was returned to its ordinary unsparkly form on January 6th.

Mum and dad's home contains the ghosts of so many wonderful Christmases past. One day I will take the whole family home to share my childhood memories with them. On Christmas morning (after breakfast of course) we will let Grandad lead the way into the closed living room. He will carefully open the door while the children gather behind. They will be so excited, trying to peak, just slightly worried that Father Christmas may have forgotten them this year, and just when they can barely contain their anticipation he will throw open the door and shout "he's been"!