Christmas With – and Away From – Family

It’s not the first time I’ve spent Christmas away from my family. When I was a support worker for people with learning disabilities I worked Christmas Day to let colleagues with children stay home with their family. And since I’ve lived away, I’ve had all manner of fun Christmases, including dinners with friends at local pubs and working in a coffee shop in the Red Light District.

But when I’m anywhere other than Barrow with my family and old friends at this time of year, I feel like something’s not quite right. I’m missing something, somewhere, some people.

I have to admit that as Christmas drew closer this time around, not being able to be in Barrow with the rest of my family zapped some of my festive spirit. Fortunately, my wise husband reminded me that it’s not just about my traditional Christmas any more. We have our daughter now too, and we can take the opportunity to carry on family traditions here and, while we’re at it, throw in a few new ones too.

So tonight we finished decorating our tree, which now stands in the corner of the room, a vision of craftiness with vintage-y baubles, cupcake ornaments and some of Lola’s toys (we ran out of baubles). Its not as glam-rock as the trees me and my sister decorated when we were younger but its a good effort (my dad worked nights at the shipyard, so we would choose one of those nights to go mad with the Christmas decorations as a lovely, ahem, surprise for him in the morning).

A deep red poinsettia is sitting on the dining table, as a tribute to my much-missed Nanna Pat. Looking at it brings back memories of Christmases gone by as she showed me how to bake flapjack, tickled my feet and told me off for not saying my “t’s”.

Vintage Nana and Grandad, keeping it funky,

There are mince pies in the cupboard, which remind me of my mam, only mine won’t be swimming in a bowl of double cream!

Last night we watched the Royle Family Christmas Special, which is a certain way of bringing out my sentimental side. And over the weekend, we’ll watch movies and perhaps one of them will be Rocky. I’ve watched every Rocky film with my dad (yes, even Rocky 5 and no, we didn’t rate that one either Sly). Watching films together is our thing and now my dad has also collected every Disney film made for Lola, so it will be come “their thing” too.

This year we’ve invited our Amsterdam friends around for Boxing Day, because my childhood memories of Boxing Day revolve around my Nanna Margaret’s full house, complete with a buffet, children’s table, party games and Billy Joel in the background.

Sorry for the poor quality photos – they are stills from the memory bank!

Boxing Day '92

The annual Boxing Day march to the brass band

This Christmas will be a tough one for my family as its the first without my uncle Stephen. He sadly passed away in February, surrounded by his family, just a few hours after we had arrived with Lola for her first trip back to the homeland. A harsh reminder of life’s cycles.

And so along with our usual family traditions, there is a new one this Christmas. At 12pm UK time on Christmas Day, I’ll raise my glass as my dad and Uncle Billy raise theirs and from opposite sides of the water, we’ll share a toast. One for our much loved absent relatives…

…whilst the youngest in our lives keeps us in the present moment, and gives us the opportunity to re-discover Christmas and our childhood all over again.

Today I won’t be with my Barrovian family, but my thoughts are there. And me and my Dutch family will make this a special day here.

Merry Christmas to those that celebrate it, wherever you are and however you choose to spend it!


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