A Different December

11 December 2020

We are fast approaching the time when I will have been in either hospitals or in Care Homes for nine months. I’m again reminded of the old saying “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”. It’s an old joke, but… In any event, we may be sure that celebrations for the festive season will be different this year. With Christmas fast approaching, for a number of folk it will perhaps be not quite as joyful a time as in the past. We have memories though, as our thoughts turn to earlier years. For me this time of year brings mixed feelings as I recall it being the custom in our family to put up all the decorations on my dear Dad’s birthday, December 12th.  However, it was also on that date that my paternal grandfather passed away in 1978 at the good age of 82. So it is a time tinged with sadness too.

Tradition has it that gifts are exchanged, families meet, so I feel that it is not only a time for giving but it should also be a forgiving time. I remember reading the story of a tutor turning to their students one day and holding up a glass which was half-filled with water. Naturally the students expected a talk on whether the glass was half full or half empty, but the tutor didn’t. Instead the class was actually asked how heavy they thought the glass was and the answers ranged from eight to sixteen ounces. The tutor then replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. What’s important is how long I hold it. If I hold it for just a minute, it’s not heavy. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will be numb and feel paralysed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change but, the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralysed and incapable of doing anything”.

I like this. To me it is important for us all to remember to let go of our stresses, to put our burdens down when we can. To not carry them for hours and days and months. To put down that glass. Let go of the bad feeling or it can tire us out. Forgive, even if we cannot and in most cases probably should not forget.

December also reminds me of a story I was told a good few years after it had happened. When I was a child, it was decided one Christmas that I should have an electric train set as a present. Naturally my father and my two elder brothers felt it should be all in working order beforehand, so after I’d gone to bed this one Christmas Eve the set was laid out and tested. Which they happily did. Now, Dad was the deputy organist at the local church and had agreed to play for the Midnight service. We only lived a few minutes walk away from the church, so it was at 11:45pm that Dad walked into the church to start playing quiet music before the service. Except no-one had informed dear Dad that the ‘midnight’ service normally started at 11:45pm! Dad found the church full of people and the vicar waiting for him… I often wondered why it was that Dad made absolutely sure I knew the importance of being in good time for appointments and being sure of when to be there!

It stood me in good stead years later for meetings. I was also taught that it was polite, it showed good manners to be early for an event, meeting or whatever so that the event started on time. It also gave visitors like guest speakers a good impression of who they were dealing with and that we could be trusted to do what we said we would, on time.

I’m also reminded of a task that became assigned to me before Christmas, which was actually fetching all the decorations from our attic, getting out the tree lights and making sure they were still in good working order then draping them onto the tree. But why was it that despite my best efforts, one bulb would always manage to work itself loose just as I was putting the lights on the tree? It was found though! One year I bought a ‘Star-burst’ filter for my camera, which I used when taking a photograph of the now fully decorated Christmas tree. It created a lovely effect and I was really pleased with it.

So, whilst many things are having to be done differently this year, many things do not change. It is still coming up to when we celebrate Christmas, it is one time when we might not be able to be with our loved ones, but they are with us still, in mind even if not in body. It is the same, but different this year.

There is a well-known song, ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’, which I am sure everyone reading this knows. But we can imagine, having received these gifts each day, how the recipient might perhaps have replied…

Letters from Agnes

December 14
My dearest darling John,
Who ever in the whole world would dream of getting a real Partridge in a Pear Tree? How can I ever express my pleasure. Thank you a hundred times for thinking of me this way.
My love always, Agnes

December 15
Dearest John,
Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine, two turtle doves. I’m just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They are just adorable.
All my love, Agnes

December 16
Dear John,
Oh! Aren’t you the extravagant one. Now I must protest. I don’t deserve such generosity, three French hens. They are just darling but I must insist, you’ve been too kind.
All my love, Agnes

December 17
Dear John,
Today the postman delivered four calling birds. Now really, they are beautiful, but don’t you think enough is enough. You are being too romantic.
Affectionately, Agnes

December 18
Dearest John,
What a surprise. Today the postman delivered five golden rings, one for every finger. You’re just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves.
All my love, Agnes

December 19
Dear John,
When I opened the door today there were actually six geese laying on my front steps. So you’re back to the birds again huh? These geese are huge. Where will I ever keep them? The neighbours are complaining and I can’t sleep through the racket. Please stop.
Cordially, Agnes

December 20
What’s with you and those freaking birds?? Seven swans a swimming. What kind of damn joke is this? There’s bird poop all over the house and they never stop the racket. I can’t sleep at night and I’m a nervous wreck. It’s not funny. So stop those freaking birds.
Sincerely, Agnes

December 21
O.K. Buster,
I think I prefer the birds. What the hell am I going to do with eight maids a milking? It’s not enough with all those birds and the maids, but they had to bring their damn cows. There is manure all over the lawn and I can’t move in my own house. Just leave me alone, please.

December 22
Hey you,
What are you? Some kind of sadist? Now there are nine ladies dancing. I don’t know why I call those sluts ladies though. Now the cows can’t sleep and they’ve got diarrhoea. My living room is a river of poo. The Council have issued a court order against me to give reasons why the building shouldn’t be condemned.
I’m calling the police on you! Agnes

December 23
You rotten s*d,
What’s with those ten lords a leaping on those maids and ladies? The cows are getting upset and they’re stepping all over those screeching birds. What am I to do? The neighbours have started a petition to evict me.
You’ll get yours! Agnes

December 24
Listen you b**tard,
Now there’s eleven pipers playing, and do they play! They’ve never stopped chasing those maids since they got here yesterday morning either. Oh yes, and all twenty-three of the birds are dead. They’ve been trampled to death in the orgy. I hope you’re satisfied, you rotten vicious swine.
Your sworn enemy, Agnes

December 25
Dear Sir,
This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve drummers drumming which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, Miss Agnes McHolstein. The destruction, of course, was total. All future correspondence should come to our attention. If you should attempt to reach Miss McHolstein at the Happivale Mental Home, the attendants have now been instructed to shoot you on sight. Please be advised that a warrant has also been issued for your arrest.

James Jones & Co

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