The smell of plasticine reminds me of Christmas. As a child, every year I received one of those flat packages containing colourful strips of bendy, pliable happiness that, rolled and warmed between the palms of the hands, became a dog, a house, a snake, a man, a necklace……all wonky, but definitely wonderful. And then they’d all end up rolled into one big rainbow streaked ball, ready to be reincarnated into……a dog, a house, a snake, a man, a necklace!
I have a plasticine scented memory of myself, sitting on the hall floor outside my sleeping mother’s bedroom door, playing with a little metal garage and a handful of plastic cars (I was definitely a tom – boy), blissfully turning a lever on the side that caused a lift, containing a tiny, driverless truck, to rise to giddy heights (about 2 inches). I am pretty sure my bare feet were freezing (early 1960’s council houses were heated by one coal fire!), but the image in my mind suggests I was absorbed and oblivious.
Fast forward, and it is Christmas Eve, and I am laying out presents for my own children. Being hard – up for money, some of the toys were second – hand, just as I had received, as a child……but it was never a problem! I looked on, at the new – to – us arranged collection of Barbie dolls and her luxurious accessories, and experienced a twinge of envy. Despite being a tom – boy, I had ALWAYS wanted a Barbie, or a Cindy, or even a Tressy (her hair grows), but the nearest I ever got was a cheap plastic version from the market, that came with 3 heads; one blonde, one black, one brunette (Mary Cafferky’s brother mocked me, gleefully informing me that I didn’t have the ‘proper’ one). I think the yearning had more to do with belonging. You could join the ‘in’ girls on the steps, at playtime, if you were in possession of the right, authentic doll, PLUS an extensive wardrobe of glitzy outfits. I never made it, but maybe my own daughter COULD. Thankfully, as it turned out, she didn’t want to. On Christmas morning she looked upon her Barbie booty with mild interest, and got on with her life.
The following year I purchased one Baby All Gone. ONE. For my eldest daughter. My youngest daughter, still only a toddler, wanted Baby All Gone with every ounce of her being, and a tug – 0f – war ensued. I was devastated. “I have ruined Christmas!” I wailed, as they fought tooth and nail over the smug, rubbery monster that ate all of her plastic food (hence the name Baby All Gone). By boxing day Baby was relegated, by both daughters, to the living room floor, in favour of other toys and cartoons on TV. I was a good mother, once again.
And let us not forget the desperate battle to find Cluedo, on Christmas eve, in Bangor. I was hot, sweaty, tired and ready to cause a riot. I made phone calls. I even asked a relative if I could borrow hers, until I could replace it. She wasn’t keen. And then a saint of a person told me where I could lay my shaking hands on one. Hallelujah! Christmas was saved. The first time we played it, competitive daughter peed off non – competitive daughter, and it ended in a row. I never even LIKED Cluedo, to be honest, and I can’t remember who it was who thought that Christmas couldn’t possibly go ahead without the wretched thing.
AND there was the year I bought a huge remote controlled helicopter for Dave, off the internet, something he had really, really wanted (yes, in his 40’s). Delivery was uncertain, so I was impatiently chomping at my nails, fingers firmly crossed……and it arrived on Christmas eve. Yay! On Christmas morning he was thrilled, as he tore off the wrapping……only to take it into the kitchen, too impatient to wait until he could fly it outside, and crashed it into the table. Like the turkey, her was gutted.
Isn’t Christmas wonderful? All the stories it provides, the memories, the laughs? The stress, panic, anxiety and exhaustion are all forgotten (until next year at least), but the human stuff isn’t. Presents are secondary to the experiences…..I bet each and every one of us could write a book about our Christmases, and they’d all be howlers! We STILL put the cards out that the children made at school, 20 years ago. They STILL have the same Christmas stockings they have had for years. We STILL hang the decorations they made in class, using glitter and paint and drinking straws, on the tree, though they are becoming pretty tatty by now! THIS is Christmas. I used to yearn for those TV Christmases……rosy cheeked people showing up, bearing ribbon be – decked gifts, for mince pies and mulled wine. Being invited to BE the rosy cheeked guest, complete with cosy hat, scarf and mitts, shaking off the snowflakes, and warming my hands in front of the roaring hearth fire. It is just a fantasy, and to be honest, I’d rather be tucked up at home, over – full, a little drunk, fairly skint, and free to flop out, with those I love who are also over – full, drunk and skint. THAT is our version of Christmas, warts and all! #Christmasmemories.