Last night I dreamed again.
And now, too early, I sit, hoping that this strong, hot coffee will kick-start me into action and chase away the doldrums. The season will always be bittersweet, and I embrace the sweet, and force the bitter into my internal lock box and throw away the key. But the bitter swells, the box bulges, the seams weaken; a slow leak begins to infiltrate…and I dream again.
And so I write again.
I can’t be more than six. A hopeful, dreamy little girl, I watch the sunrise through my bedroom window, beautiful, harsh, blood red, cruel- and force myself to wait a few more minutes, allowing the excitement to build within. I hear Mum begin the Christmas day food preparation. It’s already hot - too hot for turkey and Christmas pudding, but turkey and Christmas pudding it will be, because it’s always been. I hear Dad singing Captain Mac and my little-girl-heart fills up. Yes. It's Christmas.
And suddenly, dream-logical, it’s me in the kitchen, up to my elbows in flour, sweating as I cook and cook and cook and cook in temperatures that demand nothing more than a cold salad, a glass or two of ice cold white wine and a dip in the pool. It’s Christmas eve and the children talk excitedly, endlessly. Danny is bragging that he’s going to wake up at 1 am to open up his stocking. He teases that he will open theirs as well, and there are wails and shouts. Flour flying, I wag my finger, calm ruffled feathers and implement the ‘only one gift before everyone is up’ rule. He complains - it’s not fair - but the rule actually became a thing and stayed in place as long as stockings lasted! Now there’s a memory that makes me smile!
The dream is about food mainly, and Danny features heavily. I am the cook/ he is the cook/ Mum is the cook. Mum cooks traditional sausage rolls and mince pies, light, heavenly. Danny encourages us to try his bacon and egg ice cream. :0) And me? Everything I cook burns. Everything. And I don’t mean I overcook the beef slightly. I mean I open the oven and every single thing is a small, black unrecognizable chunk. And I stand in the kitchen alone -always alone- and I have to go in and tell them all that once again I have ruined Christmas, that we have no food, and I know the carefree laughter I’m hearing will stop, and they will stare at me, waiting for me to fix it - and I can’t fix it, ever. And the panic grows, stealthy and steady and strong. But dream-Danny opens the oven and says ‘no, Mum, look. It’s not burned, it’s fine.’ And just like that, it’s fine. And the laughter soars, and outside the frigid, white world becomes a hazy, humid, blood-red and fierce summer day…and I wake up with my heart pounding, thoroughly lost in Christmases past, and the bitter swells and finally bursts the seams of the lock box and I miss him so, and I lie curled up with pain and sorrow, regret and longing and self-recrimination washing over me like ocean waves, and I stop fighting and allow it. Because now is the time. 4am Christmas eve. Still dark. Silent. I consider gathering up the bitter and stuffing it back into the box immediately. I can do it. I’m really good at it – it wasn’t TAUGHT, as such, but it was just what we did in my family. Stiff upper lip, and all! But as I lay there this morning, breathing deep and searching for calm, I decided on a re-blending exercise instead. So for each bitter, I deliberately seek out a sweet and allow that memory to thoroughly wash over me. I recall the minutiae – hear the sounds, smell the smells, and slowly, slowly feel life settle itself back into the balance of light and dark that it is. It's enough...
Busy day today, in traditional Christmas Eve style. I will have Aussie Christmas music playing as I cook, and I will sing and think and reminisce and feel a slight longing for 100 degree temperatures! I probably won’t burn anything black this time, and tonight I’ll talk to Danny and Mum, a million-trillion miles away, and I will raise my glass to Daddy-man, gone now for thirty years, and wish happy/merry/birthday/Christmas to him, and I will continue to braid the bitter and the sweet together as so many people must do at this time of year. Loss bites hard during Christmas, that bitterness taking little sharp nips out of the sweetness at unexpected moments. But we persevere because...well, because...
I am calm again. The coffee is deliberately crazy strong and I am wide awake and jangling! The dream is receding. Nothing is burned beyond repair, the season seems bright and cheery again. The sunrise is not blood red and fearsome, but soft, a peachy glow over the snow-white. Gentle. I am feeling the sweetness return in full force. I embrace my beautiful life here, feel the loving arms of my husband around me. My calm. My rock. My love. Tomorrow LOTS of family members will gather here, and we will eat and drink and laugh and love and eat and drink some more.
As I put my computer aside and re-don the apron in preparation for my Christmas Eve, I am feeling once again the happiness and hopefulness of the season, and I can’t wait to see everyone tomorrow!
To anyone who has stayed with my ramblings...! Hoping your sweet overwhelms your bitter – Merry Christmas, happy holidays, love and great good wishes to all family and friends, near and far - but Danny in particular! WISH you were here. Xoxo