Lind­say Woods

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside - Aida Austin is away

It started with nuts. Specif­i­cally, honey glazed, coated in glit­ter and anointed by an­gels, lux­ury party mix nuts. “There’s about €20 worth of nuts in the trol­ley al­ready? We don’t need any more nu…”

His voice trailed weakly off into the dis­tance as he was met with eyes omit­ting laser beams like hot pok­ers and the be­gin­ning of an as­cend­ing pitchy, un­hinged tone.

“Is that what you want? TO RUIN CHRIST­MAS, IS IT? IS IT?”

He’s back­ing away now, mum­bling, but it’s too late. The dam­age is done and there is no rea­son­ing with her. “I mean, what if some­one ar­rives and all I have to of­fer them is ‘dry roasted’ when re­ally they had been sav­ing them­selves all win­ter for ‘Lux­ury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glit­ter’? And I have to ex­plain that the rea­son we don’t have the ‘Lux­ury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glit­ter’ is be­cause, my hus­band is a MISER.”

At this stage, my eye­balls were bulging to car­toon like ef­fect, ac­ces­sorised to per­fec­tion by a thin layer of per­spi­ra­tion on my up­per lip and a del­i­cate mist of spit­tle aimed di­rectly at my hus­band as I un­leashed my par­tic­u­lar brand of fes­tive stress upon him. His look was one of dis­gust, pity and gen­eral hor­ror. It may have started with the nuts but, it ended with me fling­ing them back onto the shelf, shov­ing the trol­ley like a petu­lant tod­dler at my hus­band be­fore strop­ping my way to the car park where I ex­ited, still fu­ri­ous, with­out the ‘Lux­ury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glit­ter’… or my hus­band.

I never did get that ‘Lux­ury Party Mix’; and quite rightly too. What I did get, was an icy re­cep­tion when he ar­rived home. Which was be­yond jus­ti­fied. And an un­healthy, twisted knot type feel­ing in my stom­ach that per­haps, my be­hav­iour had been a tad ex­treme. Slightly. A bit. Fine… En­tirely un­rea­son­able to the point of fel­low shop­pers star­ing at me, mid rant, as they walked by and my hus­band racked his brain for a num­ber not dis­sim­i­lar to, ‘1800-Di­vorce’.

But that was then and this is now. And whilst my par­tic­u­lar brand of fes­tive un­hinged at­tempts to break the sur­face oc­ca­sion­ally, I have learned to soothe the beast. How? By not giv­ing one figgy pud­ding as to how it should all pan out.

If you were asked to re­mem­ber your stand­out Christ­mas, each and ev­ery one of us would probAs ably have one com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. With­out de­scend­ing into maudlin fes­tive schmaltz, chances are that the com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is… peo­ple. Those we love, those we don’t par­tic­u­larly like very much, strangers, relations, friends… all in­ter­twined in some un­ruly fes­tive tableau se­creted away into the mem­ory stores. Christ­mas, for me, is not about em­brac­ing the per­fect; it’s about em­brac­ing the im­per­fect.

Given the op­tion, I would be more than happy to avoid the odd cousin from three fields over, who only makes an ap­pear­ance on Christ­mas Eve, be­decked in a sweater em­bla­zoned with the im­age of a red nosed rein­deer with a mildly threat­en­ing brow and who re­fuses to make con­ver­sa­tion with any­one. Or the un­cle who favours co­pi­ous glasses of hot Tanora spiked with some am­ber nec­tar with cheeks that ri­val the hue of the rein­deer’s nose on the odd cousin’s sweater af­ter an hour or two of knock­ing back his favoured con­coc­tion. I’m pretty sure my hus­band could do with­out the end­less re­quests to re­lo­cate the tree to yet an­other van­tage point in the sit­ting room. Or the nu­mer­ous last-minute trips to the shop for more re­serves of Tanora.

But these mis­fits and mishaps are Christ­mas. are the grum­bles and gripes over ‘too tight’ new shoes, the “Do I have to sit next to him/her/ the dog?” and the end­less rounds of pinched cheeks, sloppy kisses and awk­ward hugs. It’s the know­ing how to say sorry for los­ing your sanity over snacks, a smile to a stranger af­ter Christ­mas Eve ser­vice. It is the ap­pre­ci­a­tion for that good cheese that you know the re­cip­i­ent would not think to buy for them­selves. Or that for once, you de­cided to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with the odd cousin, which did noth­ing to dis­pel the no­tion that they are in fact, ‘odd’, but that they also just felt a lit­tle awk­ward due to the fact they have been co­erced into wear­ing that sweater each year. So, how­ever you cel­e­brate, large gath­er­ings, small gath­er­ings or maybe it is just you and a faith­ful arm­chair (with, I hope, a glass of some­thing fes­tive to toast your good health), I would like to wish each and ev­ery one of you a safe and Happy Christ­mas. And hope­fully, if you have been ex­tra good this year you too might find, se­creted un­der the tree on Christ­mas morn­ing, your very own se­lec­tion of ‘Lux­ury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glit­ter’.

‘Christ­mas is not about em­brac­ing the per­fect – it’s about the im­per­fect

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