Christmas 2011 – we made it

Christmas 2011 for the Carter family was always going to be a tricky one.

Fortunately, it was tricky in expectation rather than actuality.  Despite all of us being nervous at our first Christmas without Trev being here – and despite everyone having a moment or two at some point during the festivities – we enjoyed ourselves, as you can see in the photos.

Amber, opening presentsI was struggling to get ready before Christmas, both in the sense of buying presents and getting in the spirit.  We had arranged with my parents to go to Swindon for Christmas.  The Lovely Melanie’s parents are away in Australia visiting her sister, Kris, and Swindon just seemed to be the natural place to go this year.

Being with all the family felt almost desperately important for us.  Conny took the entirely understandable decision to get the hell away from everything and visit India, but I felt rather responsible for ensuring that my parents would be OK (my Mum in particular), so Swindon it was.

Millie, opening presentsMy parents’ left their car in Bexley the last time they were here for us to drive back.  Just as well, as there was no way we could’ve gone on the train or coach with all our presents.  And that goes double for the journey back when the girls had all their new toys and gifts!

So, we arrived in Swindon at lunchtime on Christmas Eve to a flurry of visits from the rest of the family.  On Christmas Eve Uncle Rich came round in his ambulance car and Millie got to sit in there and turn the flashing lights on (she even tried the siren very briefly, but that scared Amber).  Then, the girls went to bed and we went to visit our friends the Mays for a bit of “grown-up time”.

That was pretty fabulous, both because it’s always a pleasure to see the Mays (Rich May and I have been friends for almost 30 years now) and because another old friend was there, one of Trev’s very best friends from school, whom we haven’t seen in a long time and had long since thought lost…  Good to see you again, Baz. 🙂

Millie and Amber and presentsThe girls were pretty good at sleeping in on Christmas Day.  I was kept awake worrying that they might revisit my own Christmas Morning sins upon me, by waking up at three AM and then asking every 15 minutes whether it was time to get up yet.  Amber, however, slept right through until seven; Millie woke up a few times and eventually came into our bed to sleep but made it through till almost seven in the end.

By George, they had a lot of presents!

Seriously, the pile flooded out to cover half the living room floor!

But with the girls by now being highly-trained present-opening machines most of the fuss was over within 30 minutes.  My presents – and the Lovely Melanie’s – took rather less time to open, but I was very happy with an array of computer games, books, CDs and chocolate. 🙂

Rich, Millie & AmberOne thing that truly helped with the expected difficulties of Christmas Day was my brother, Rich.  As a paramedic, he’d drawn the short straw and was working Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  A stroke of good fortune meant that he was stationed to cover the area of Swindon where my parents live, so when not on duty he was able to wait round at theirs for any emergency calls.

He came and went a little bit as emergencies demanded during the day, but was there for the bulk of it and for Christmas Dinner.  His presence really helped, I think – the comings and going broke up the day a bit, but also it was just good to have him there for a good part of the day.  Seriously, thank you, little brother, for being there on Christmas Day; your presence really helped make Christmas for me.  I’m glad you thought the same, too.

The Lovely Melanie and I went to the crematorium to see Trev’s grave Christmas morning, but even that potential flashpoint wasn’t as miserable as it might have been.  We put a mince pie on his grave, wished “him” a merry Christmas and were a little bit sad for a couple of minutes.  Then we went home again.

Millie, Amber and OCDMy Uncle Jason was there when we got back, and it was good to have him there, too.  His jokes might be terrible, but there’s a time and a place for them – and Christmas Day round my parents was most definitely the time and the place. 🙂

Amber spent most of the day playing with her cleaning set – broom, hoover, mop, etc. – pretending to clean the whole house.  And when I say “most of the day” I really do mean “most of the day”.  Either she really loves that present or she’s suffering from OCD.

When Rich finished work in the evening his wife, Carla came round with Izzy (my niece) and Christmas flared up all over again, with presents galore for everyone. Amber made my evening by doing that thing kids can sometimes do so well: just before bedtime she ran up to me and whispered “I really liked all my presents, Daddy,” which made the whole day just about perfect.

We went round Rich & Carla’s house Boxing Day night for some more “grown-up” Christmas and had a thoroughly nice time.  Plus, it’s always nice to be able to swear again after so long in the presence of your own parents and your own children! 😉

Yesterday morning we drove back to Bexley – once again, in my parents car (they took the train, there being barely enough room in the car for two small children, two adults and lots and lots and lots of presents), and today I am back at work.  Sigh.

In recognition of my having to go back to work today I would like to thank my wonderful wife for letting me play computer games most of yesterday afternoon and evening.

It wasn’t just Skyrim and Modern Warfare 3 – I did have to sort out the hundreds of pictures we I took while we were away using our new camera, a Nikon Coolpix S9100.  The “old” camera had inexplicably stopped focusing properly (particularly at vital moments, as mentioned previously) so without a moment’s hesitation I selflessly stimulated the economy by buying a new one using my credit card.  And very pleased we are with it, too. 🙂

As mentioned before, I’m unfortunately working at work for the rest of the week, so my Christmas is effectively over, but it was good while it lasted.  Thanks to all of my family for making it such a good one against the odds.

Trev (and Conny), we missed you, but you would have been proud of the way we pulled together in your absence.


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