It started with nuts. Specifically, honey glazed, coated in glitter and anointed by angels, luxury party mix nuts. “There’s about €20 worth of nuts in the trolley already? We don’t need any more nu…”
His voice trailed weakly off into the distance as he was met with eyes omitting laser beams like hot pokers and the beginning of an ascending pitchy, unhinged tone.
“Is that what you want? TO RUIN CHRISTMAS, IS IT? IS IT?”
He’s backing away now, mumbling, but it’s too late. The damage is done and there is no reasoning with her. “I mean, what if someone arrives and all I have to offer them is ‘dry roasted’ when really they had been saving themselves all winter for ‘Luxury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glitter’? And I have to explain that the reason we don’t have the ‘Luxury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glitter’ is because, my husband is a MISER.”
At this stage, my eyeballs were bulging to cartoon like effect, accessorised to perfection by a thin layer of perspiration on my upper lip and a delicate mist of spittle aimed directly at my husband as I unleashed my particular brand of festive stress upon him. His look was one of disgust, pity and general horror. It may have started with the nuts but, it ended with me flinging them back onto the shelf, shoving the trolley like a petulant toddler at my husband before stropping my way to the car park where I exited, still furious, without the ‘Luxury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glitter’… or my husband.
I never did get that ‘Luxury Party Mix’; and quite rightly too. What I did get, was an icy reception when he arrived home. Which was beyond justified. And an unhealthy, twisted knot type feeling in my stomach that perhaps, my behaviour had been a tad extreme. Slightly. A bit. Fine… Entirely unreasonable to the point of fellow shoppers staring at me, mid rant, as they walked by and my husband racked his brain for a number not dissimilar to, ‘1800-Divorce’.
But that was then and this is now. And whilst my particular brand of festive unhinged attempts to break the surface occasionally, I have learned to soothe the beast. How? By not giving one figgy pudding as to how it should all pan out.
If you were asked to remember your standout Christmas, each and every one of us would probably have one common denominator. Without descending into maudlin festive schmaltz, chances are that the common denominator is… people. Those we love, those we don’t particularly like very much, strangers, relations, friends… all intertwined in some unruly festive tableau secreted away into the memory stores. Christmas, for me, is not about embracing the perfect; it’s about embracing the imperfect.
Given the option, I would be more than happy to avoid the odd cousin from three fields over, who only makes an appearance on Christmas Eve, bedecked in a sweater emblazoned with the image of a red nosed reindeer with a mildly threatening brow and who refuses to make conversation with anyone. Or the uncle who favours copious glasses of hot Tanora spiked with some amber nectar with cheeks that rival the hue of the reindeer’s nose on the odd cousin’s sweater after an hour or two of knocking back his favoured concoction. I’m pretty sure my husband could do without the endless requests to relocate the tree to yet another vantage point in the sitting room. Or the numerous last-minute trips to the shop for more reserves of Tanora.
But these misfits and mishaps are Christmas. As are the grumbles and gripes over ‘too tight’ new shoes, the “Do I have to sit next to him/her/the dog?” and the endless rounds of pinched cheeks, sloppy kisses and awkward hugs. It’s the knowing how to say sorry for losing your sanity over snacks, a smile to a stranger after Christmas Eve service. It is the appreciation for that good cheese that you know the recipient would not think to buy for themselves. Or that for once, you decided to strike up a conversation with the odd cousin, which did nothing to dispel the notion that they are in fact, ‘odd’, but that they also just felt a little awkward due to the fact they have been coerced into wearing that sweater each year. So, however you celebrate, large gatherings, small gatherings or maybe it is just you and a faithful armchair (with, I hope, a glass of something festive to toast your good health), I would like to wish each and every one of you a safe and Happy Christmas. And hopefully, if you have been extra good this year you too might find, secreted under the tree on Christmas morning, your very own selection of ‘Luxury Party Mix Nuts Coated in Glitter’.
Aida Austin is away
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