Friday, 18 November 2011

Giving Myself Away.




For the first time in about forty years I will not be 'doing' Christmas. My son and daughter-in-law will be taking over, and I hand on the responsibility with a mixture of feelings, one of which is relief.
It will be strange not to be in charge of the sprouts.....and the parsnips, and the roast potatoes, stuffing, brandy butter and turkey. Not to have control of the quantities, the timing, the furniture moving, the bed-making. Not to do what I always do, which is to plan meticulously for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and to forget that a range of people will need feeding for the days before and after the Main Event.

What this freedom does is give me time to think about what I really want to give to those I love, and rather to my surprise I find I want to give things that are personal and have real importance to me. Things that I have hoarded over many years. Things that I have been rather possessive about.

Is this what is called 'growing old'? Or even 'passing on'?
If so, I do it with the deepest sort of pleasure.

I have given a lot this year, some of it my late husband's, and now most of it my own. Significant books and jewellery, tools and picnic sets. It has given me a warm glow to find a new home for some rather esoteric choral music, and to discover a shared interest. Giving is not just for Christmas, but the time of year creates an important focus.

The photograph above shows a silver and jade bracelet, and will be a gift with a huge history. It belonged to my Aunt, when she and my Uncle and my infant cousin were living in Malaya during the Second World War. They had to flee from Penang to Singapore to escape the Japanese invasion, taking only a handful of belongings. My aunt was wearing the bracelet, and it travelled with her to the docks at Singapore, where she and her little son managed to get on to a ship. They did not know where the ship was going, but it happened to be Tasmania. My Uncle did not travel with them. He spent the rest of the War in Changi jail.
The bracelet eventually travelled back to England, my Uncle returning years later, blinded through malnutrition and unable to work ever again or even to speak about what had happened to him during those years. He was in his early forties.

Soon the bracelet will be returning to the Far East, and actually to Japan. It will go in happiness and peace, I'm sure, and I need to think that it will make a most positive ending to a sad and painful story. It is part of my family history, but there is no one else to tell it now.

I must say no more. She doesn't know she's getting it yet.

16 comments:

mm said...

That's quite a habit to break, RR! But maybe it's a good thing you will be able have a bit of rest and relaxation over the holiday period ....

Relatively Retiring said...

mm: the passing over of the Christmas melee is a joy; the passing on of such significant objects is also surprisingly liberating. (Not at all sure about the r and r though!I am very inexperienced.)

Jenny Woolf said...

What an amazing history. The recipient must be a treasured friend.

Molly said...

A gift with real meaning! I'm sure she will be honoured to receive it. Forty years is a long time.....I hope you will enjoy your new position on the sidelines! Sounds like you have earned a rest!

Zhoen said...

How wonderful. To send things, with their stories, on journeys beyond our own hands and lands. When the time comes to let go, this is the time to find new homes for them.

For me, it has been more a matter of having to move, and leave stuff behind, but the impulse, and relief, and joy, are similar.

gz said...

finding the right home for things is good.

letting yourself be cherished by others is also good

Mouse said...

bless you RR, you are a wonderful woman and you continue to inspire me

Jane said...

I have a firm promise from daughter that she will take over Christmas as soon as we're free to spend it at her house (- another 10 years or so then). Meanwhile, help with the shopping will be forthcoming - hope we don't get snowed in like last year.
It's great to give a gift with a history - and more meaningful for both parties.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: I can but hope that the next generation will see the real story of the bracelet, and try to ensure that such things never happen again. I want it to be worn in very happy times from now on. Molly; thank you. I need to learn a lot about resting. I might not be very good at it!
Zhoen: the impulse to down-size could become quite additive. It's a liberating experience. I think I could end up in a minimalistic yurt.
gz: it's lovely when things come together in this way.
Mouse: goodness gracious me! Thank you for such a compliment!
Jane: last Christmas left us all feeling somewhat insecure, didn't it? I'm glad you're getting help with the shopping. I have memories of trudging around with ski-poles and giant snow-boots, trying to balance heavy bags at the same time.

Leslee said...

Beautiful bracelet, and wow, what a story behind it. Lovely to pass it along.

I used to always host our Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals when my parents lived nearby and my mom was alive, but it was just the three of us and sometimes a couple of guests. I did enjoy it and I miss it, but it is so much easier to leave it up to someone else!

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, whoever does the cooking!

Isabelle said...

I have a similar impulse to pass family things on while I'm around to tell the stories about them.

My dad's cousin was similarly interned by the Japanese (he was working in Malaya) and his wife and twin baby sons eventually escaped to Australia. He too was never well again and he died in middle age. Awful.

herhimnbryn said...

And so the story of the bracelet will continue. Have started giving away personal items too. It feels good to do so.

Enjoy being looked after over Christmas.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle and HHnB: thank you for your comments. It's good to be able to give things away, to ensure that they go to the right people, and to give their stories with them. Control freak all the way!

also Isabelle: some of those war-time stories are so tragic. I think the knowledge that they were unspeakable and unspoken is one of the factors that eventually took me into listening support work.

Pearl said...

What fabulous history. I am envious of the person who receives such a treasure.

As for not being responsible for the sprouts, et al, be glad of it! Perhaps it is time for someone else to assume the mantle...

Pearl

Relatively Retiring said...

Pearl: thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I am so happy that the bracelet will be returning to Japan after so many years, and I'm also happy to relinquish responsibilities. It's lovely that the next generation has volunteered for these things.