It was such a lovely thought by my Darren and his wife Catherine to surprise me with a Christmas day visit. There were hugs and kisses in the doorway and so much to say that I thought I would never get them inside. Darren lit the fire for me and very soon its warmth brought a seasonal cheer to the previously icy room. I made tea and the chatting began again.
The fire crackled, making my little grandson jump. This brought back memories of his father doing the same thing one Christmas, many years ago. I had a small gift waiting for young David and I watched as he eagerly tore at it to get to the prize, shredding the paper that I had so painstakingly folded. I didn’t mind; only adults ‘unwrap’ gifts.
I had not approved of Catherine when Darren first introduced her. My protests became even stronger when he announced that he was going to marry her, even telling him that I wouldn’t go to the wedding. She was not good enough for my son! I was shocked when he went through with it anyway. This would never have happened had his father still been around!
Catherine was always so wrapped up in herself, far too selfish to look after a husband. I knew what Darren liked to eat, what his moods meant and how to look after him when he was poorly. How could she possibly know any of this? She caused such a split between my son and I that I did not see him or my grandson for years. But on this Christmas day, one long hug forgave everything and we were a family once again; or very nearly.....
There was a knock on the door and Darren jumped up to answer it. A familiar voice brought a lump to my throat as Darren re-entered with his sister.
Tara smiled at Catherine and then crouched to receive a hug from David. She looked up at me a little nervously.
“I can’t stay, mum. I just popped in to wish you a merry Christmas.”
“You can at least have a cup of tea first,” I said hopefully, but Tara still looked nervous. “What’s so urgent that you have to leave right away?”
“I’ve got Bella in the car,” she replied as her eyes dropped to the floor.
Tara was twenty-two when she told me she was gay. At first I thought she was joking, but then I became angry. What had I done wrong to have been repaid by having an abnormal child? I asked my parish priest if there was anything he could do, but he told me that although it was against the laws of the church, it was not actually illegal. An uneasy truce ensued for months between my daughter and I, until one day she arrived home with Bella at her side. She tried to explain that they were happy together, but I saw how that freak looked at my daughter, and a fierce argument followed, culminating in my banning Bella from the house. Shortly after that, Tara announced that she was leaving home and moving in with her girlfriend. Another argument began in which each of us said things we didn’t mean. I’m certain she understood I didn’t mean it when I told her never to return.
I looked into my daughter’s eyes.
“Are you two happy together?” I asked.
Tara nodded and once more her eyes dropped to the floor. She didn’t want another argument, but neither did I. I am an old woman but it has taken me this many years to realise that just because people have different ideas about lifestyles, it doesn’t make either of them wrong.
“Then you must bring her in,” I said.
Tara’s face lit up but she studied my expression for a moment to make sure I was serious. Then she rushed up and threw her arms around me. It was so good to hug my daughter again!
I put my arms around Bella as she entered, much to her surprise and we opened a bottle of wine I had been given some years previously.
As the young people chatted, I began to realise some of the things I had been missing throughout the years. They talked about people within their circle of friends, and I was surprised that most of these were mutual friends. I had thought that Catherine was too selfish to have gained many friends and that Tara and Bella were too far outside the norm. Eventually I realised that it was I who was the outsider, by judging these people according to my own imperfect life. I had missed out on seeing my grandson growing up and of being a part of my own children’s lives. But it was not too late to admit my mistake. As another bottle of wine was opened and another log thrown onto the fire, I made up for all those lost years and remembered once again what it was like to be a family.
The warm glow from the fire and the even warmer glow from the smiles of my family, promised to make this a Christmas to remember.
A knock on the door silenced the room. At first I pretended that I hadn’t heard it. Another knock, louder this time. I was hoping one of the others would answer it, but I knew that it had to be me.
A smiling face greeted me as I opened the door. Perhaps if I could just take the package and shut the door quickly, it wouldn’t be too late, but the man insisted on chatting. He was only trying to be sociable; trying to make sure I was all right. How could he have known? He talked about everything from his family to the weather, and all the time he spoke, things were slipping away.
Eventually he handed me the package, wished me a merry Christmas and I closed the door. Even as I carried the steaming meal into the icy room, I realised that it was too late; I was alone.