During my life, I have enjoyed 45 Christmases (26 of them as a mother to my own children). I have so many fond memories of my own childhood. I remember shouting down to my mum over and over again on Christmas Eve once I'd gone to bed, asking how long until morning. Finally getting to sleep and waking up to a stocking containing a satsuma and some chocolate, at the end of my bed. Running down the stairs and finding three piles of presents in the living room for my two sisters and I (as the youngest my pile was always the biggest!!) Opening the pressies in a flurry of excitement while my dad prepared the Brussels Sprout in the kitchen, wearing a wooly hat and drinking rum and coke from a pint glass. I vividly recall watching Top of the Pops and eating Christmas dinner on the big table that took up all of the living room's floor space. (I also remember the year that I set fire to my Christmas cracker at the dining table when my sisters and I were messing around with a candle - oops!)
We'd sometimes have Christmas tea at my grandparents' house where we'd eat cucumber served in vinegar and sandwiches made with that ham that has orange jelly around it. Nan always put on the same spread with everything arranged in little china bowls on the kitchen table.
My Nan Peck was a pretty incredible lady who loved any excuse for a party. She was always first up on any dance floor, earning her the title of 'disco granny'. Christmas was a very special time for her because she got married to my Grandad on Christmas Day and would tell the story of their wedding day every year, remembering the roses that grew in the churchyard. We'll never know how accurate her memories were, but the story was full of colour, beauty and love, and however many times we heard it, the details did not alter and it always felt like we were hearing it for the first time.
She adored her family and once she became a great grandma to all of her many great grandchildren, she loved to indulge them at Christmastime by buying each and every one of them a bag containing five presents each, which she'd hand out in age order to the kids who waited in line to receive them and to get a big kiss from her. She'd buy gifts all year round, storing them in a cupboard that we nicknamed Aladdin's Cave. Aladdin's Cave was so full of toys that as the kids got older, some of the gifts would not be age appropriate. My teens recall receiving toys meant for much younger kids but not once did they complain, accepting their presents graciously with a smile. We all loved her so much!
After my Grandad died, my Nan spent many Christmases with my parents at my childhood home. These times hold some of my favourite childhood memories.
One absolutely wonderful moment that will forever live on in my memory is the year that my Nan played charades with us. She loved her party games and charades was up there as her favourite because it gave her a moment in the spotlight. On this particular year, Nan had many moments in the spotlight. Fuelled by a couple of sherries, my wonderful Nan took to the floor to act out the names of the TV shows popular at the time. From crawling across the floor with her tongue hanging out and panting as she acted out 'Survival' to gesticulating wildly through the living room window towards the garden to act out 'Crossroads', not one of us had a clue what she was doing! Unperturbed, she continued with even greater enthusiasm jumping around the room with such purpose and determination to get us to guess the TV shows from her clues. When we failed to guess her charades, she'd announce that she had therefore won that round before starting straight on to the next one. It was such a funny game when done my Nan's way!!
As a young teenager, I found her antics so endearing and so hilarious. We were all laughing so hard, and sharing this joy together as a family was just perfect. I am so glad that I had been given a new camera for my Christmas present as it allowed me to snap away. These photographs of my lovely old Nan doing what she did best are absolutely treasured records of some wonderful memories that saw my whole family united in love and laughter.
Of course, being a lady in your 70s and playing hardcore charades solidly for hours is a very tiring business and it wasn't long until Nan retired to her favourite chair to have a well deserved Christmas snooze. This is another photo that I am so glad to have taken, showing Nan asleep in the armchair with my cat Hairbear asleep at her feet.
We lost my Nan at the ripe old age of 98, six years ago and we miss her so much, especially at Christmastime. But she has taught me to live life to the full and to enjoy everyday. The memories I have from my childhood, made me determined to give my own children as many joyous family memories of their own and I have spent the last 26 years giving my kids the best Christmases I could manage. I hope that in the future they will be able to look back on their own childhood Christmases with as much fondness as I look back at my own, and they will treasure the moments that they get to spend with their own grandparents.
Merry Christmas! This post is my entry into the Tots100/Little Tikes 12 Days of Christmas competition.