by Katie Isham.
“I know, I’m completely heartbroken I can’t make it this year,” I bite my lip as the smile bubbles up again and I thank the lord I didn’t FaceTime. The one time my mother’s lack of technological ability has worked in my favour.
If she could see me wearing my Die Hard “Ho Ho Ho” t-shirt, some shabby leggings and the fluffiest bed socks known to human touch, I’d be receiving another of her disapproving looks. But she can’t, so I don’t, and I feel all the better for it.
My magic bed socks slide me across the kitchen floor to the fridge that’s creaking under the weight of enough alcohol, cheeses, cured meats, sauces, decadent desserts, cheeses, mini party quiches, cream, more cheeses (did I mention the cheeses?) to overindulge a village. All of which is destined to end up solely in my belly. Not to be consumed at the dining table. And with no painstakingly, pointlessly folded napkins in sight.
I pull a profiterole from the pile, pop it in my mouth and wink at my cheeses, my beautiful array of non-sharing cheeses. All lined up for later. I panic I won’t finish the creamy mouthful before having to speak, but I should have more faith in her ability to soliloquy. She drones on about the end of an era and about the novelty (read: tacky) gifts “Santa” has dropped off for me that I won’t get to open Christmas morning. She laments losing me as her traditional Pictionary partner and wonders who Dad will walk with on the inexplicable pre-dawn Christmas Eve outing. I make sympathetic noises through a mouthful of Chantilly goodness and dream of staying in bed for a full 48 hours with only essential trips to the bathroom or fridge.
“It’s for the best you know,” I repeat the well-trodden chorus of the song we’ve been singing since mid-November, “I don’t want to put you or Dad in danger.” I spreadeagle amongst the mountain of cushions on the sofa as Mum reluctantly concedes again to our separate celebrations.
Memories of my festive traumas surface. I think of the three-hour drive in holiday traffic, the “No one special yet?” eager questions and the excruciatingly intermittent Wi-Fi. I think of the toddlers screaming at the dinner table, Uncle Frank’s unmistakeable odour of cigars and after dinner expulsions, and my old nemesis of the 25-year-old camp bed that always causes me a year’s worth of chiropractic appointments. And I smile as I realise that despite all its agonies, at least Covid has spared me from these tortures this year.
Instead I get to wake up in my own bed, wear what I want, eat what I want, eat when I want, watch what I want, sleep when I want, and generally do whatever the hell I want. I snuggle into the sofa and pull my duvet up to my chin. It’s only taken a global pandemic, but finally I get to feel at home for the holidays.