‘Could you put down the Quality Street and give me a hand please?’ asked Father, more than a hint of exasperation in his voice as he struggled to free his foot which had gotten tangled in the trailing lead from the lights.
‘Chill out darling. It’s Christmas,’ replied Mother, a beatific smile upon her face.
‘You might want to go easy on the mulled wine as well,’ he suggested. ‘Or mullered wine, more like it,’ he muttered, almost, but not quite, under his breath.
Mother rolled her eyes in an exaggerated move. ‘Don’t be silly,’ she chastised. ‘This isn’t like a proper drink. It’s a Christmas drink so it doesn’t count,’ she added, making even less sense than usual.
I hoped my face showed my disdain but I feared that as usual, Mother and Father would mistake the visual expression of my emotions for an imminent bowel movement. I cannot tell you how many times my expressions of anger, of embarrassment, of indignation, of distaste have been roundly misinterpreted as: ‘She’s having a poo.’ Body language experts my parents are not.
But I hoped that they could see my disdain as today had been a usual journey into the ridiculous. A journey which had begun early when I had been surprised by Mother’s animated greeting on waking. This was unusual in itself as she – and Father – are usually the antithesis of enthusiasm at dawn, Mother complaining that she could do with another ‘hour or five in bed’ and Father moaning that ‘it’s still the bloody middle of the night.’
Today though there was a sense of excitement. ‘We’re putting the tree up today darling,’ explained Mother. ‘This means Christmas officially starts.’ She looked very pleased about this, as did Father. I had my suspicions why. From my limited knowledge and understanding, Christmas is a time to eat and drink excessively. From my increasing knowledge and understanding of the couple known as my parents, I suspected this would suit both down to the ground.
I must admit, in spite of myself, I felt a flicker of anticipation about the day’s events. But all sense of enthusiasm began to wilt away as the time marched on whilst Mother and Father scurried around aimlessly.
‘Where did you see it last?’
‘How am I supposed to know? It was last year.’
‘Well you must know.’
‘Why’s it my responsibility?’
Things deteriorated quickly with Mother accusing Father of being a ‘Scrooge-like festive killjoy,’ whilst Father retaliated with the suggestion that Mother’s approach to organisational skills was to ‘bung everything in a cupboard and forget about it.’
Eventually, and fortunately, the missing tree was located. And what a crushing disappointment it was. Small, skinny, and balding, it looked less a tree, more a withered twig. I hoped that it would look better once bedecked but before we could get to that, there were more pressing matters to attend to.
‘Look!’ declared Mother. ‘I knew I had some somewhere,’ she added before slopping the contents of a bottle into cups and placing them in the microwave. ‘Proper Christmassy now,’ she said, handing Father a steaming mug of a purple liquid.
Whatever was in those mugs made Mother and Father grimace after just one tiny sip.
‘It’s disgusting,’ declared Father, looking pained.
‘It’s meant to be like that,’ said Mother. ‘I quite like it,’ she added, though her screwed up mouth suggested otherwise.
I noticed that the skies had now darkened outside. But progress was halted once more when Mother determined her outfit wasn’t ‘festive enough.’ She disappeared, only to return a little later in an absolute offence against fashion; if she’d gone out in a jumper that ugly I was sure that she’d have been arrested. The garish pattern and clashing colours were one thing but the flashing lights were quite another.
‘Will you give me a hand please?’ asked Father, his voice tense. His mood wasn’t helped when he finally freed his trapped foot from the lights cable – only to trip, inelegantly falling onto his hands and knees.
Mother spluttered with laughter, emitting a fine spray of the purple liquid. ‘C’mere,’ she said martyred, once she’d stopped giggling. ‘I’ll decorate the tree. I’m much better at it than you,’ she added, cockily.
Her confidence was, I felt, misplaced. Mother has no style and no design skills to speak of; you should see what she’s done in my room. There’s a giant teddy bear painted on the wall which, quite frankly, terrifies me.
As I suspected, she approached the tree decoration in her usual cack-handed way, placing all the baubles and tinsel in one place. I had a feeling that this was down to the disgusting smelling mulled wine she was continuing to imbibe, as well as her natural lack of creativity. I felt it my place to step in and I began removing the baubles purposefully from the branches. ‘Ah, she’s trying to help,’ smiled Mother, immediately replacing all the decorations I had removed, back in the same place. We carried on like this for a while, me removing, Mother replacing, until I gave up; if they want to show themselves up with hideous festive adornments then I’ll let them get on with it. Still, I did make my frustration known with a firm scream.
‘Come on darling,’ said Father, picking me up. ‘You put the star on the top.’
As I was handed the sparkling ornament I felt a momentary sense of significance. This clearly was the most important part of the job and I was being entrusted with it. I felt a flicker of respect for Father; he clearly had recognised my excellent leadership qualities.
‘Ta dah,’ announced Father at last and I must admit, with the lights on and all the decorations, the tree did look quite…magical. Of course, the star was very much the best bit, glittering proudly at the top.
Mother caught me staring at it. ‘It’s not as bright or sparkling or as special as our little star,’ she said softly. It took me a second to realise she was talking about me and I was rather pleased. But the moment was sadly ruined by the lights flickering on-off-on-off before finally going off. Father looked very much like he wanted to say a bad word, he was fiercely biting his lip. Meanwhile, Mother looked as if she was regretting her foray into the mulled wine bottle, letting out a loud burp.
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