We had a sleepover for Christmas. My 4 year-old niece, Scarlett, stayed over, so her parents could get find time this morning to clean up the house after the Christmas Eve party.At 6.15, there was the first fragment of conversation from the kids’ room. Santa had delivered, Jacob was tearing into the contents of the sack on his bed, and Scarlett was screeching at the Barbie and the pink fake make up kit. There’s little you can do except surface from what’s left of the alcohol stupour of the night before and mumble instructions about toilet doors, clothes, tripping over spiral stairways, breakfast soon on the way. You grasp your first mug of hot coffee, look at the exhausted face of the mother of your child, and hope the caffeine will somehow carry you through the day.
And the day swims by. We get to my brother’s in a heap for lunch, spend four hours eating too much turkey and Jamie Oliver stuff, watch an old Muppets Christmas Special, drowned in the sound of squabbling kids and adults sneaking the occasional slurred cat nap. Two girls aged 4 and 5 gang up on my son aged 6 and scream they both want to marry him, and he doesn’t know where to look. The presents arrive late, my father is tired and has more wrinkles than last year and there are not enough bags around for the booty we have to carry back home.
And then I find out that Pinter has died.
Christmas is about kids. It’s about waiting for the next present, the next kiss, the next distant relative to plant a smacker on your nose and ruffle your hair until you are well and truly exhausted and can finally crawl back to your bed and start counting the presents in your head.
There is no other day in the calendar which makes me more aware of time slipping through my fingers and the resourceful networks of family than Christmas day.