The older we all get, the simpler Christmas becomes and the partridge in our pared-down tree is more of a robin with a missing leg. I’m not to blame. It’s them. They’ve outgrown Christmas. This year’s panto money went on a family outing to see Primal Scream – “worth every penny” said Youngest – and when I unearthed the singing dog in the Santa hat that belts out Shout and flaps its ears, it was met with baleful looks and “No-one likes that dog” from Middle Child. Killjoys.
Present lists have been edited down to a simple, “money would be good” from all three.
Another guitar for Eldest and since I don’t know a Telecaster from a Stratocaster, a contribution is requested. Middle would like “a jumper” and prefers to choose himself – cheek – so again, money. As for Youngest: “Money please, to buy clothes. I’ll go into town on Boxing Day,” she says, then adds: “With my friends.” She’ll be shopping in Poondies if she keeps up that naughty-not-nice tone with this Christmas Elf.
Only my brother requires proper old-fashioned gifting. A petrolhead, he’s furious about his driving ban after a mini-stroke. So deep is his attachment to his wee sporty number he assumed he had a problem with his clutch until he got home, his wife asked him why he was walking like a crab, and he checked his symptoms on the internet. So a remote control red Ferrari will be right up his street. And for a moment, when I show it to Eldest Child, the ghost of Christmas past visits and lights up his face.
“I could get you one too if you like,” I say.
“Nah, good for five minutes then a waste of money.”
But there is one thing that still means Christmas in our house. The tree. The decorations are back after Eldest borrowed them for his band’s photoshoot – how lovely, I thought, until I saw their “dysfunctional family Christmas” poster – and Youngest redeems herself by inviting me to assist with assemblage.
Sitting back on the sofa we admire our work.
“Far too big,” I say.
“Perfect,” she says and attaches the robin to a branch by its one metal foot. “Now it’s Christmas.”