Our first Christmas without Duncan
Oscar has had a habit for the past couple of years, when he's disappointed or angry about something, he says "I hate today!". Not just the thing he's angry about but the whole damn day. It doesn't matter if he's had the best day of his life and one little insignificant mishap occurs, its made him hate the whole day. No amount of reason or logical will force him to accept that its not the entire day, just one part of it, but the rest was actually really good. He just "hates today".
Well, now its my turn.
I hate today. Or maybe just Christmas. Or maybe everyday.
I hate that we celebrated our first Christmas without Duncan. That he missed the kids opening their presents at the crack of dawn. That we didn't get to buy him presents and sit on the bed and watch him unwrap and be overly emphatic about how much he absolutely loved the kids' presents to him. That he didn't get to buy me silver hoop earrings and I didn't get to buy him whatever book Peter Fitzsimons released for his Christmas book. And that we didn't wake up together and wait for the excitement of the morning and the mayhem that was yet to come.
But I am going to follow my own advice today. When Oscar "hates today", I remind him of all the good that has come along with that bad. So he can be a bit more open to the idea that while that one part of it was definitely fucking shit, there were some beautiful things that were there too.
I'm sure its quite evident from previous blogs that I have beyond brilliant friends. And if it isn't clear by now, Christmas is even more proof of the type of people that surround me.
Friends have dropped off gifts, so many gifts. Their big hearts worry that mine wouldn't be filled, and they just have done everything they can to know we're loved. Socks, mugs, coffee, little toys, an ugly jumper rashie (for the ultimate Christmas-hater), money and gifts for the kids, the list goes on. So many gifts from so many friends. Family from overseas sent gifts and money, and even family that usually don't send anything sent presents - I'm pretty sure my kids are the ONLY kids in Australia who all have "Dauphin, Manitoba" T shirts! Thank you Aunty Rhonda and Uncle Bob!
Last week, my friend Cameron offered to take the kids rock climbing with his daughters. His eldest daughter Giselle is good friends with Alex (she came camping with us the other weekend), and his second daughter, Eloise, is the same age as Oscar (he left his two boys at home). So good of him to take them off my hands while trying to wrap up some work before being off for two weeks.
Turns out he didn't actually take them climbing, he took them all out shopping for Christmas presents for me, letting them all pick something out for me and had them wrapped before hiding it all in my garage. When the kids brought the presents upstairs and put them under the tree, they were beyond excited. It was such a lovely thing for him to do for me, but also for the kids. And on top of that, he and his so-lovely-you-wish-you-could-dislike-her-but-she's-so-fucking-awesome wife bought me presents from the two of them. How do you "hate today" when you have friends like that?
Christmas Eve Day
Christmas Eve was exhausting. It drained me nearly as much as Christmas Day did. I spent the day with three different families for various bits of time dropping off drinks and goodies. I was lucky I got to see Brooke briefly on Christmas Eve Eve, when she popped by for a quick lunch break. I'm pretty sure she just came to get kitty cuddles from Lando, though.
On Christmas Eve, we all went over to Petra's house for an hour or so to drink some bubbly and compete with Robert for best rumballs. Mine were pretty good, but I may have been drunk from eating two of Robert's.
After a long overdue visit with them, we swung over to Cameron and Sarah-Kate's house, where we had only planned on staying for a bit, but ended up having a nice glass of gin, and somehow my kids with no swimmers ended up in the pool. They all blamed each other. Its holidays. Who cares? Apparently not even uptight, anxious, pedantic, OCD me.
After the Singers' house, I got the kids home to change out of their "swim" clothes and into dry clothes. We were going to the Hendersons' house for dinner and drinks. Over the years, the Hendersons have become wonderful friends of mine, but also of the family. Their son Ally is best friends with Alex, and I've been friends with Angie since prep. Their daughter Rachael is the loveliest girl, and if Alex is anything like her when she's older, I'll be a happy mom. I got to know Chris better too as the years went by and I consider both him and Angie to be great friends. Angie and I have particularly kindred spirits, as she's Scottish, and we have the same gripes and complaints about Australia and its idiosyncrasies that people from the northern hemisphere often can't cope with (despite loving it, of course).
The Hendersons invited us to spend Christmas Eve with them for dinner and drinks. They're only 2km from us, so Chris picked us up and after dinner the kids and I walked home. Well, quite late after dinner. Sitting and drinking and eating with friends you've know for six or seven years and feel 100% at home with was much better than my initial plan to stay home and drink gin while watching The Walking Dead and letting the kids do whatever they needed to help distract them.
It was a lovely night and I feel very thankful to have the Hendersons in my life.
The day started out rough. Max came into my room about 2am because Lando had waken him up trying to play catch with Max's feet and hands. An hour later, Lando started meowing because he was lonely and of course Goose couldn't handle that so she started yelping and whingeing but really just wanted to hang with Lando. Lando, like Maeby, has absolutely no interest in dogs. Or any other animal larger than him. He was keen on the birds though.
So I spent from about 3am to 4am trying to get Goose to calm the fuck down while not waking up the kids and still giving me a half chance of falling back to sleep. I was only partially successful. Alex woke up, much to my surprise as she's the latest riser of the three. She asked if she cold open her stocking, I said only if she went back to sleep after. Thankfully she agreed, and we both got back to sleep until about 5am. After that it was presents and breakfast and all the other things that come with Christmas morning. Except for the fact that Duncan wasn't there.
The kids picked out some totally wicked gifts for me. I was so proud and impressed with their selections. When I texted Cameron in the morning to thank him for taking the kids shopping and that I loved everything, he said they all chosen individually what they wanted to get me. I think he was just trying to shift the blame for any dodgy gifts....
I ended up going to sleep for an hour or so while the kids did Christmas morning stuff. I was so fucking tired from the pet pandemonium hours earlier. At 1130am we headed to Carol's house.
This goes without saying but I'll say it anyway, my friends are the family I choose. I've said it before, its nothing new. But its a reminder about how much I love my friends. Not only Carol, Brooke, and Petra, but their families, too. I can go to their houses, go camping with them, go for lunch, coffee, whatever, and its like being with family, all of them, not just the three ladies. Will, Gordon, and Robert have all helped and taken care of us this past year, without question and without hesitation. These families are the people that restore your faith in humanity.
Carol offered to take us in for Christmas ages ago. There was no pressure, no expectation - come, go, stay, don't come, whatever, the offer was there. And it wasn't a sympathy offer, it was a "you're family, come spend it with us". Carol's mom Penny was there, and its like we've already known each other for years. Carol's sisters and their partners and kids were there, and through Carol, we all knew so much about each other, we almost awkwardly didn't need any introduction. It was beautiful. Carol's sisters, Claire and Vickie, are just like Carol. Tall, gorgeous, smart, and wonderful. Their partners and kids were lovely and I felt like I just fit in with all of them. Such a nice feeling. The kids all got along and after a swim it was a group game of "Among Us" in the lounge room, far away from the parents!
We all drank, ate, swam (well, the kids did, I didn't - gin might have the lowest caloric count of any drink, but it actually adds up in kilos after a few months), exchanged gifts, had pavlova, and just had a really nice time. Don't get me wrong, everything we do is tainted with sadness and emptiness, and Duncan's death has left a permanent void in our hearts. But to be able to laugh and feel loved on a day you expected to feel alone and heartbroken was a welcomed surprise. Thank you De Jong family, for taking us in.
Post-Christmas, but still Christmas Day, low
After a late Christmas Eve, and an early Christmas morning, both days filled with sugar, swimming, and sunshine, we were all spent. Physically and emotionally exhausted.
At these times, our home is borderline mayhem. Alex gets cranky with everyone (though its not all her fault, she's practically a teenager now). Max needs alone time. Oscar gets sad and angry. I don't get to do anything, as I'm emotional support for all three.
We had McDonald's for dinner at Alex's request. No fucking chance I was cooking. Kids were thrilled.
Oscar and Max took turns playing on the Playstation, Alex watched Bohemian Rhapsody (again) and I hovered like any other mom would. The kids FaceTimed with Nana, Uncle Marty, and Qin (I'm not much of a phone talker so mediated phone-time rather than chatted - much prefer in person and we'll see them in a couple of days). We got them all camping essentials for Christmas presents, so they have their own gear for when we meet up with them.
Max's eyes were hanging out of his head and put himself to sleep at 830pm. Alex watched as much of the movie as I would let her before crashing in bed. Oscar slept with me, cried and said how much he missed Dad and was sorry for saying he hated this Christmas but he did.
This time I didn't tell him he was wrong. He was allowed to hate it.
But for me, upon reflection, I didn't actually hate today. I hate that Duncan wasn't here. And I hate that he never will be again. At least not in person. He always is in our hearts, and always will be.