Gifts? Just a squeeze of a loved-one’s hand will do
MELANCHOLY, I know all too well, is as much a part of Christmas as happiness. The ghost of Christmas Past is never more than one footstep behind Christmas Present…
Though I know the feeling, those words are not mine. They are filched from Paul Drury, a fabulous journalist I was honoured to work alongside at the Mail in Dublin.
It is from a piece he wrote a decade ago bemoaning the changing face of Christmas, a season that – like Private Eye magazine – somehow limps on despite everybody being agreed that it’s not half as good as it used to be.
A taste of melancholy is fine, but Paul took refuge from the maudlin with a ‘silent and secret’ squeeze of his young son’s hand on a festive shopping trip.
Amidst the feast of mammon that our commercialised and religion-free Yule has become, that’s a lovely reminder of what we all already, deep down, know.
The magic of the season is not found in glittering shopfronts or wrapped beneath the tree, but in the human touch.
We can all recall those fabulous moments from years gone by when Santa delivered the perfect present.
But, actually, aren’t our fondest memories those of the people we spent those moments with?
The bleary-eyed grandparents who hadn’t been awake that early since retiring; the lesser-spotted cousins from distant lands (well, the Lothians, anyway).
And maybe the family games and of course the dinners and the stories about that time dad and had too much port…
In an age when so many are by necessity scattered geographically, the best gift is togetherness rooted in the ‘driving home for Christmas’ spirit that is so pivotal to most families at this time of year.
Yet Christmas for so many workers who must dance attendance on today’s 24/7, 365 society is a difficult time. Many’s the empty seat at the dinner table on the Big Day because of the exigencies of work.
Other seats are empty because, as time marches inexorably on, some people – like Paul himself, dead at 57 – are sadly with us only in memory.
If a positive is to be drawn from the way we live now it is that it makes that little secret squeeze of the hand in a moment snatched from the demanding maw of the office and Old Father Time a little sweeter. Rarity always adds value.
IAM glad Paul wrote about that tender moment with his son amidst bustling shoppers. It means he savoured it, returning again in his mind to the joy it brought him. And I hope his lad, by now on the cusp of manhood, recalls that distant shopping trip with fondness.
Never has a truer word been spoken than ‘they grow up so fast’ and it’s from fleeting little moments that families can build a stock of joyous memories on which to look back.
Oh, there’ll be spats and huffs and walk-outs and slights both real and imagined. That’s life.
But as well as a chance to indulge, Christmas is – much more importantly – a chance to add to that bank vault of precious recollections.
And there’ll be enough wee secret squeezes of loved ones’ hands to go round.