I love Christmas. Absolutely everything about it. The excitement, presents, turkey and all the trimmings, with obligatory chocolate and the endless disco naps needed to cope with it all. I love buying presents, always getting a kick out of the look of surprise on the face of the person opening my gift. I get misty eyed over Christmas tunes particularly “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues and Kirsty McColl and can argue a justifiable case for playing them from 1st December. I love the tingle of tangible excitement in the air, and the acts of kindness that come easier the closer 25th December comes. This year, I started the tradition of the mad Christmas jumper, donning my robin with a scarf proudly, only swapping it for an acceptable substitute; a Christmas themed onesie.
In the midst of the celebrations, what mattered to me most were the unexpected special moments. The look of love between my parents when my Dad opened an unexpected, but mentioned at every opportunity, gift that my Mum promised to hide until the afternoon, only to get over excited and hand it to him five minutes later. The giggles and smiles of my nephew as he ran through a sea of bubbles from the ‘bubble gun’ Santa brought. Then there was the moment after dinner, when tea was poured and the quality street tin was opened, that we spoke of the man who wasn’t there.
I think of my Granddad every day, always with a smile. He was a gentleman, with quiet ways. Always dressed immaculately, he never left home without a cloth handkerchief, his pocket cap ‘bunnet’ and a packet of Weathers Originals. Since I was a little girl, he affectionately called me ‘cuddles’ in testament to my tactile nature. He lived for his golf, never missing tee off time and when my Dad wanted to place a commemorative bench at his golf club, we could only place it near the 6th hole, where he got his only hole in one. He was modest, admitting, when prompted, that he’d won a medal for bravery during World War Two, saying “I lost a lot of friends” only for us to find two medals after he passed away and in my whole life I never once heard him utter a bad word about anyone.
When he left us, four years ago, and people learned he was 89 years old, they said he’d had “good innings” to comfort us. We soon realised that no matter what age, you’re never ready to lose someone you love. So, on Christmas Day, when we talked about this quiet man and all of his little idiosyncrasies, for a few brief magic moments he was there in the room with us. We just couldn’t see him.
He never knew about my writing, and my secret notebook with character names and storylines but I’ve no doubt that he’d be proud of me. Since I’ve begun storytelling, I’ve always based my characters on two or three people. Not by plan or design, but mostly by kismet, that brings me into contact with a serendipitous combination of characters I need at that particular time.
I will write about my Granddad one day and that character will be wholly him. But I couldn't write about him without celebrating who he was, so I’ll remember him in the best way I know how; in the world of my imagination. So when you see his name in one of my stories you'll know who he was too. Andy Young was too special not to share.
So if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; share your magic moments. I believe that the people we love never truly leave us; but instead take refuge in our hearts and come alive when we remember them. Celebrate all those you remember and share them in the best way know how through words, poetry, art or song. He’s here with me now. I believe it, just like he believed in me.