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I often get extremely excited about Christmas. I love giving gifts, I love receiving gifts and I love being festive. I’ve been invited to spend Christmas with boyfriend’s families and experienced the majestic white christmases in an Austrian barn with a 20 foot trees, decorated with real candles, home baked cookies. They would have a turkey so huge, you couldn’t see the shrivelled sweet old grandmother from across the table and with so much gift giving that it surfaces the whole lounge, (one area per person) and takes 3 hours to unwrap. The mother would spend a whole month arranging the perfect Christmas for her boys, even though they were not children anymore and what she did was magical.
It was a serious thing to be invited to spend Christmas with the potential in-laws but for me, it was also a gateway to the Christmas my mother would never be able to give my brother and I. Don’t get me wrong, she did her best when she could. We had real Christmas trees to the fake ones, to the very luxurious fake ones with beautiful decorations and presents but for most of my young life, I got the feeling that we did not belong. We spent our lives in the middle of the world with people who had different cultural values. My mother’s family in Vietnam and my father’s family in America. We always felt like we had been cast away – there were just the three of us on an island and Christmas was a way to remind us that we actually had no family.
My mother would spend Christmas with her best friends who also, didn’t have family in England, and combined, they were our family. We used to spend a week at her friend’s house and they would chat about food, make food, where to buy food and gossip. And so, when I was invited to spend Christmas away, my mother would be happy for me, to get away from a “poor house’s christmas”. She always wanted me to have better things.
Baked with Onion, Ginger, Lemon. Added Soy, Butter & Rosemary
But an outsider was still what I really felt whilst being at these different families’ homes on Christmas without my own. I observed and I smiled and I ate the dry turkeys, and opened thoughtful and un-thoughful gifts, sometimes feeling the love from the boy I was with and sometimes feeling it fade and fade.
I once felt the love fade so much that to my surprise, the boy tapped his glass with a knife and said, “I have an announcement to make: Leluu and I are getting married next year.”
I felt my face on fire, my smile nervously wobbled. Was that a proposal? The mother, a beautiful aged version of Grace Kelly, screeched her congratulations and hugged us both in what I can remember as with her claws digging into my back. The family roared in shock and champagne flutes were clinked and I looked the boy in the eyes from across the room and he looked away.
We broke up that year and he married someone else soon after. He probably offered her a ring.
Lego for The Boy From Alassio. I think he loved it.
I would often spend Christmas doing a tour at friend’s houses. I’d go to my (Polish) friend, Aggie’s house and we’d have the carp, herring, sour cream and the traditional works on Christmas Eve, and they would even buy presents for me and my dogs and we would even take bread together and give thanks to each other and then go to my Spanish friend, Fatima’s house where her parents would invite the entire Spanish neighbourhood of Arsenal over and we’d eat a whole roasted salmon, turkey and greasy Spanish things. Chorizo with everything!
Talking of Spanish, I once gave a boy a watch because he was often late but also because it was a beautiful watch and a Hugo Boss bag because it was better than carrying a blue plastic bag around and always forgetting your keys, wallet or phone. I was so excited to give it to him and he was happy to receive it but after 3 bottles of wine, he said that although I was very kind for giving him such expensive gifts and they were beautiful, he didn’t want it because, “that would break if I go rock climbing or deep sea diving.” (he doesn’t do either). He concluded by telling me I was an idiot and drove me to leave the house on Christmas morning and it took me 2 hours to walk home with all the gifts in tears. But at least it was sunny. I opened his gift and it was a book, “How To Stop Worrying & Do More.”
I soon came to discover that spending money on gifts is an issue for some boys. They feel uncomfortable that I would spend money on them because simply, they wouldn’t spend it on me. Money, somehow gets in the way of generosity, although a meaningful present doesn’t have to cost anything.
Is it better to do less at first and give more later? I don’t know… but this year, I am alone for Christmas. No tour. No in laws. My family came round and cooked me a lovely roast lunch and they left, because they should be with other people and party and enjoy when they can. It is hard for others to understand how that is totally, just OK. That’s what I love about my mother and my brother. In the end, we just care about each other’s happiness and enjoyment. I know they will always be there for me, but they don’t have to watch Christmas television with me.
I am waiting to host a majestic Christmas of my own and with my family. One year, it will come.