Worst. Christ­mas. Ever. The chaos of host­ing your fam­ily for the first time

Mar­ried and with a baby, Ta­nia Ed­wards thought it was high time she hosted the fam­ily fes­tiv­i­ties. But chaos was com­ing…

Woman & Home - - In This Issue... - w&h

‘Against all ad­vice, we moved in to our new house at lunchtime on Christ­mas Eve…’

As a fam­ily we al­ways man­aged to avoid fes­tive dis­as­ters. When our dog was seen run­ning to­wards the woods with a Christ­mas tur­key in his teeth, our tur­key was still in the fridge.

But a cou­ple of years ago, in my thir­ties and newly mar­ried, I re­alised it was my turn to host Christ­mas. I thought I was ready. Sure, no one can deck out a 90-foot tree like my mother, but I wanted to try. I’ve in­her­ited her ex­cesses. Be­fore we were mar­ried, I smug­gled a whole Iberico ham across Lon­don to sur­prise Sanj be­cause I knew he liked prosci­utto. He looked hor­ri­fied, and clearly had no idea how to house half a pig in his bach­e­lor pad, but I couldn’t have been more pleased with my­self.

What I didn’t have a grip on were the Christ­mas ba­sics. I had no idea about the care­ful plan­ning that makes it all look easy. If I’m hon­est, I was dis­tracted. We had a new baby. And there were a few other things that promised to make this first Christ­mas to­gether tricky. Specif­i­cally, our house wasn’t hab­it­able. As the com­ple­tion date pushed past Oc­to­ber, I was a wo­man pos­sessed, de­ter­mined to make it hap­pen.

Then, be­tween pack­ing and wrap­ping in De­cem­ber, I thought I’d help my hus­band with his pa­per­work. He had put aside a large pile of mail and re­dun­dant pa­per­work to be shred­ded. Un­for­tu­nately, I didn’t no­tice that pile. In­stead, I scooped up all his most vi­tal doc­u­ments and con­fi­dently de­stroyed them. Ev­ery time he thought about his miss­ing decade, he went a strange colour and lost the power of speech. I couldn’t un­der­stand why a small ad­min­is­tra­tive hic­cup should spoil Christ­mas – but it threat­ened to. Mean­while, against all ad­vice, we moved in to our new house at lunchtime on Christ­mas Eve.

We raced to the pub car park to buy a tree, but the guys had packed up. One de­jected spec­i­men leaned against a small sign that read “Take me”. We did.

My mum and step­dad ar­rived. They con­grat­u­lated us, cud­dled the baby and cheer­fully helped us un­pack.

I tried to look gra­cious as things were put where they weren’t sup­posed to be. I wanted to ask Sanj for re­as­sur­ance but sus­pected he was brood­ing about his pa­per­work again.

Pop­ping Cham­pagne corks an­nounced Christ­mas Day. We un­wrapped the baby’s presents while he gazed at the crooked tree, buck­ling be­neath the weight of its fairy lights. Then my hus­band de­canted a bot­tle of Mar­gaux. My fam­ily’s favourite wine is “poured quickly”.

For the first time in years my mother and step­fa­ther had noth­ing to do. They tried to look pos­i­tive about it. While my hus­band cooked, we watched the wine breathe. As we sat down for lunch, sur­rounded by boxes, the sun­light streamed in through the glass doors, and sparkled through the sky­lights. It was the fi­nal in­dig­nity. We could have been on Bondi Beach. I couldn’t be­lieve our kitchen was only ap­pro­pri­ate for the wrong 364 days a year.

As we pulled the rag­tag crack­ers I’d found late the night be­fore, I quickly re­alised my fam­ily can pour any wine quickly. I tried to re­mem­ber what we nor­mally did after lunch. Triv­ial Pur­suits and mu­sic, of course, but they weren’t an op­tion, as I had no idea where any­thing was.

I re­coiled like a pinged spring when any­one moved in case they scratched the fresh paint­work. In the sit­ting room, I had tri­umphantly torn the plas­tic sheet­ing off our new sofa. Now I stared mor­bidly as my fam­ily, wine glasses in hand, squeezed onto it. At my mother’s house you al­ways have the feel­ing that if some­one sprays the walls with Claret she’ll toast a rea­son to re­dec­o­rate. I’m not sure my neu­rotic pac­ing was hav­ing the same ef­fect.

Like mil­lions of other peo­ple at Christ­mas, my only hope was to get through it. Friends came and went on Box­ing Day. They laughed at the tree and cooed at the baby, and didn’t no­tice I was hav­ing a ner­vous break­down.

A year later and we re­ally were ready for Christ­mas. I even man­aged to per­suade my friends and fam­ily to come back. The ma­nia had passed. The boxes were un­packed. Yes, the light still streamed in too brightly on Christ­mas Day, but now it showed up the cracks and chips that ev­ery house needs be­fore you can re­lax in it. The only ar­gu­ments were about whether it’s nec­es­sary to be over the top at Christ­mas. This is an ar­gu­ment I’m win­ning: and the an­swer is, yes.

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