“Most wonderful time of the year,” I scoffed, glancing up at my unimaginative flower themed calendar. It was Christmas Eve.
I shook my head sadly and began piling on layers of clothing. It hadn’t snowed yet but one glance out of my bedroom window told me that it wouldn’t be long before every inch of the landscape was smothered in a heavy blanket of white. Great. As if everyone else wasn’t already annoyingly excited about Christmas, without adding snow into the mix. Once I was bundled up enough that I resembled a Christmas present myself, I shuffled over to my old messenger bag and made sure my purse was in there, before shuffling downstairs, dragging my feet reluctantly on each step. I really didn’t want to have to leave the comforting warmth of the house and plunge myself into the icy cold air outside.
“Dad I’m going out, ok?” I called from the kitchen, knowing that my dad would be sitting in his old arm chair in the living room, his eyes either fixed on the TV or gazing out of the window. I started to pour freshly brewed coffee into my flask. Actually, dad wouldn’t be staring out of the window today, because of the excessive decorations on the house opposite. They’d gone a little over the top this year and it seemed as if their house was yelling about Christmas at the top of its voice. There were glinting lights strung across their apple trees, a brightly flashing star shooting across their roof and icicles draped around the windows. Not only that but there was a life-sized Nativity scene in the garden, the figures so old that their paint was beginning to chip and did look a little menacing and to top it all off was a man-sized snowman figure, that bobbed from side to side to its own tune.
It was almost too much for a reverent Christmas lover, let alone someone like my dad who’d avoided Christmas like a plague for the past few years. Even my mum, who had absolutely adored Christmas wouldn’t have been able to look at the house opposite without squinting and groaning out loud.
I carefully tucked my flask into my bag, anticipating my father’s reply. When all I was met by was silence I stuck my head around the living room door to see, as I expected, my dad staring unwaveringly at the TV, wrapped up in a dressing gown. I sighed and felt an imaginary hand gripping my heart and squeezing and squeezing. Since we’d lost mum three years ago, a couple of days before Christmas, December had become a hellish month. During the rest of the year my dad was absolutely fine- but then came December and he hit rock bottom again, year after year. He booked the whole month off work, refused to get dressed and showered very reluctantly. He hardly ate and it was left to me to do all the food shopping. Christmas was completely ignored, no decorations, no presents, no Christmas dinner. I didn’t mind so much about the presents and all the materialistic things, but it had been hard to suddenly ignore a celebration I had adored since I was a baby, especially since it had been mum’s favourite time of the year. I guess that’s why dad couldn’t stand it so much; because it reminded him of her. And I could completely understand how he felt. But still, December was a hard month for me and sometimes I started to detest my dad for putting me through it. But then came January first. Dad would be up at the crack of dawn, sitting at the dining table dressed in a crisp suit and reading the newspaper, a pan of sizzling bacon on the stove behind him. He would be completely back to normal, the whole of December seemingly forgotten.
With my heart still heavy I attempted to speak but my throat was too clogged with emotion. I waited a moment before trying again.
“Dad, I’m going shopping. Is there anything you want?” I managed, my voice cracking slightly. He grunted, which I took as a no. I passed by him quickly, giving him a tentative peck on the bald patch of his head. I picked up my keys and with that was out of the door.
The cold air hit me in a sudden wave, momentarily taking my breath away. I pulled my coat tighter before setting off down the road, ice and frost crunching under my feet. Just like mum, winter used to be my favourite season. I adored walking in the fresh, brisk air, admiring the soft breeze causing the bare trees to sway softly and how the frost made even spider webs seem like glinting diamonds. Then when I was so cold that my nose was red and shiny and my fingers became numb I’d enjoy rushing home and cuddling up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate, watching Christmas films or studying the little robin that had claimed our garden as its own, hopping around collecting worms and red berries.
When mum had lost her battle with cancer however, winter began to seem like a cold and awful season, not dislike the illness that had taken her away.