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.