I can't remember the last time I was as excited about a Christmas as I have been about this one. I used to love Christmas, adore it, nurture the thought of it and plot my present purchases over the six to eight months running up; I used to make my pudding in August and love it with brandy on a weekly basis until it emerged from the pot, steaming and reeking of booze on Christmas afternoon; I used to tingle with the anticipation of the furtive filling of stockings, the midnight mulled wine and mince pies and the early morning cracker-crowns and champagne.
Then, then there came a prolonged spell of hating it, the heaving mass of the public crammed into the shops, the last-minute purchases, the grey, empty feeling of sitting alone in one's rented room opening parcels from abroad and the false cheer of friends together trying to recreate the warmth of childhood. Then I married the Ghost of Christmas Past and gamely prepared our celebrations while he clanked and hooted and derided the capitalist sheen of false cheer, the arduous preparations, the dead tree and the mess. None-the-less, I soldiered on, determined to raise the spirit of Christmas Present from its wrapping paper until along came the spud and suddenly, there was the prospect of a glowing Christmas Future full of proper excitement and toys.
This year, the spud has magically learned the words 'present' and 'Santa' and I was puffed up on all the 'Night Before Christmas' hype. I baked, I planned, I imagined a rose-tinted soft-focus day with the frog fondly putting the star on top of a glowing tree; I grew presents a mile high on top of the wardrobe in anticipation. We had the nursery play, the Christmas card photograph, we mailed the cards and then it got to Christmas eve and... we hadn't bought a tree.
The only tree we could find in the entire south of London with Christmas less than 12 hours away was 7 feet tall and, having stood out in its mesh for several weeks, already beginning to shed its 'no shed' needles. While the frog struggled to put this mammoth into a bucket, I went to the supermarket for parsnips and brandy only to find that 1000 other people had the same idea. My stroke-inducing wait for the till included a lady purchasing 20 bottles of wine on coupons. Out of date coupons. This required an argument, apparently. By the time I finally got out, the frog had put up the tree and started on the decorations without me (O.M.G.) and the spud had wrapped himself in sellotape and broken in to a box of chocolates. We lost five strings of Christmas lights and after I finally manufactured dinner the spud danced around shouting 'Presents!' until 10:30pm, by which time the frog and I were ready to divorce over the question of who had put the cloves in the fridge. After the mulled wine we collapsed into bed only to be woken by the spud at 1 and then 3 and then, at 5:30, by the crash of the Christmas tree toppling over, requiring extensive hoovering of broken glass, mopping of water and swearing.
The spud woke up at 8:30 and we were so bleary we completely forgot to open the fizz or pull a cracker, however once we were finally there, sitting in the living room opening presents, it did all rather redeem itself. The spud was gratifyingly overjoyed with every present he opened (and still is) and he went down for a lovely long nap, allowing the frog and I to get mildly tipsy and to finally rustle up some Christmas spirit of our own.
The upshot of all this is that our son is now obsessed with the idea that anything that comes in any sort of wrapping at all (the water bill, cat litter, cereal) is a 'present' and so we are finding all sorts of interesting things in his room these days.
So, it turns out there is a Santa after all. I just have to convince him to come next year, too.