Letter to my Mum
‘I hope they’re spoiling you rotten, no more slaving away in a hot kitchen’
Andy raises a small glass of medium sherry to his beloved Mum, who will be so missed this Christmas
I’m missing you... Dear Mum, This is the first Christmas you haven’t been here. We’ve spent Christmases apart before of course, inevitable in this modern era of geographically disparate families. But you’ve always been there, if not in person, then always on the end of the phone, the enduring motherly promise of a season’s greetings and a spirited rendition of We wish you a Merry Christmas. And now you’re not, and I miss you.
Never again will I get the chance to see your plate piled high with Christmas fare, teetering mountains of veg and great slabs of meat all swimming in lovely unctuous gravy.
Afterwards, your dish would always be cleared, not a scrap wasted, I fully understood why you were like this –growing up in the 1930s and 40s, life was hard and food was scarce; if it was put in front of you, you ate it.
But come Christmas, food was a treat to savour, the meat to be commented upon. Tender, melt-inthe-mouth and flavoursome, with anything left over from the turkey carcass carefully packaged away for ‘cold’ later in the day.
You had a sweet tooth too, right to the end. Quality Street and sugared almonds bought well in advance, but never again will you tuck into the dark, fruity Christmas pudding and recount the familiar family story of Uncle Bob pulling a ten-shilling note from the cream and brandy butter in his bowl to the excited delight of my older siblings and cousins.
My earliest memories of Christmas are our house full of Uncles and Aunties. All gone now, as you yourself said so poignantly, you were the last one, outliving them all and Dad and two of your own children. You always believed you would meet them again – and I truly believe this Christmas you’re surrounded by everyone who’s ever loved you. Well almost everyone.
I hope they’re spoiling you rotten too, no more slaving away in a hot kitchen. I’m imagining you on Christmas morn sipping daintily on a small, medium sherry. Do they have sherry in heaven? I hope so, you’d like that. The last one wearing their Christmas hat, a tradition I’ve quietly tried to continue.
You were always up for postmeal game time. Cards usually, Whot!, Knockout whist, Rummy or Newmarket – never for money, only for matchsticks. Traditional board games too, like Topps, Scrabble or Monopoly.
I wish we could play now. I wish we could do anything together, I wish you could see how the girls are growing up. You would love the fact that number two is playing football. I can imagine you on the touchline on Boxing Day, shouting encouragement like you did for me.
Things are different now Mum; you have to let the coaches do the coaching and you can’t berate the ref any more! That’s not good sport.
I’m picturing you in the winter cold, your long coat and warm fleece-lined brown boots, stamping to keep warm, but never missing a game. Come rain, wind or shine you’d be there and ever present. And now you’re gone.
Except that you’re not gone, are you? Not really. How can you be, when I can conjure up all these tiny details in an instant?
I expect I’ll glance to my left in church this advent, smiling as we draw a deep breath for the descant of Ding Dong Merrily on High. I’ll look and you won’t be there, except that you will be, in my heart, now and always.
Happy Christmas Mum. I miss you.