Ghosts of Christmas Past
Looking at my previous life (which is what I like to call my life in my previous marriage) Ramman and I used to host Christmas every year with his parents coming to visit. I used to spend the whole time in the kitchen doing the dishes and preparing the next meal. I hated the havoc of it all and I hated having to deal with his parents – who were judgmental, bickering, materialistic and shallow.
We always had to have an enormous Christmas tree and get all sorts of evergreen twigs to tastefully decorate the house in a restrained and elegant manner – the Christmas tree lights were always white and Ramman always had to put them on the tree to ensure that no one could see the wires. The lights, as well as everything else, had to be “just so”. The tree decorations and wrapping paper all had to be colour coordinated! More than once I threatened to get a second tree and some second-hand curry-house decorations just to make the place feel festive!
I hated conforming to everyone else. I think part of the reason I had a hard time with Ramman’s family was because they didn’t like me from the start. I was always under the impression that they thought I was a gold-digger and they thoroughly disapproved of me. Over the years they gradually accepted me but I rarely felt comfortable around them. I felt they were always judging me. I was always on my best behaviour.
My ex mother in law was materialistic and shallow. She used to pout if she thought that anyone got more expensive presents than her. She loved to tell us just how hard off she was – how hard she used to work and how difficult life was for her. She hadn’t held down a job since the mid 1960s and since then all she did was go to golf. Now, I’m not saying that raising children is easy BUT she never should have said anything like that around me bearing in mind I was raised by a single woman who in the winters used to shovel her own drive. My ex mother-in-law never knew she had it so good! The ex monster-in-law didn’t even clean her own house! Once, I was vacuuming her house for her (because I’m good like that) and she was complaining that she needed a new Hoover – this one just didn’t seem to be picking up anything. Well, I had a look and I changed the bag. She hadn’t changed the bag in so long that the bag was solid in the machine. SOLID. I could barely get the thing out!
His dad wasn’t quite so judgmental of me but he was so lazy that he was a nuisance. For instance, we all be sat down to our Christmas meal one year and he glanced over the table and asked for gravy. Now, my ex husband was a vegetarian so any meal involving meat was a bit of a song and dance. I had to use different utensils for different dishes, and after 5 hours of preparing vegetables, turkey, cranberry sauce and veggie protein, the last thing I wanted to do was run back downstairs to make gravy. BUT, as it was Christmas I always did what I had to do to make everyone happy.
His parents together used to be a real drain. They used to bicker terribly. They would talk over one another vying for our attention. Ramman and I used to have to spend time with one and then the other in an effort to keep them apart. I used to think of it a little like tag-team wrestling – we couldn’t spend time together over Christmas because we were too busy entertaining one or the other of his parents. It’s little wonder that I frequently thought that the kitchen was my refuge.
Luckily all of that is in the dim and distant past…
The past couple of Christmases Helios and I have spent together. I love it that we don’t have to entertain the masses. The only concern I have to worry about is cooking enough for two, putting up festive (multi-coloured!) lights and opening presents. I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about keeping up appearances or being on my best behaviour. It’s so nice to feel comfortable over Christmas.
Once again, I am so grateful for Helios. I love his parents too. They’re only interested in seeing Helios happy. They’re consequently delighted with me because he’s clearly happier than he was in his “previous life”. But that’s another story.
His mom was as nervous about meeting me as I was to meet her! The point where I knew that she and I would be friends was when Helios was trying on a jumper (sweater for those of you speaking American) in a shop. He had obviously left us alone for a few minutes. I told her that I had been afraid that he would not want me once I was divorced. She said that of course he wanted me! She could see how happy he was with me and how she was delighted that he seemed to be much more like himself than he had been over the past few years. She told me what he was like before me – irritable. He used to come to visit and be grouchy and she had been concerned. But no more. And now we’re friends which, after my years of cow-towing for approval, is such a relief.
As for Helios’ father, he’s a lovely man. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey but I just love listening to him. At one point he was telling me what a good boy Helios was when he was a kid – always honest. As a child Helios once accidentally broke the storm door on the house but he confessed straightaway. He also regularly looked after his grandparents by going to the shops for them. It made me laugh because I felt that he was trying to sell me his son! “He’s a good boy. He’s always been a good boy.” As if I needed persuading!
I’ve never felt so welcome. I’m very family oriented and having family in this country (especially because my family are so very far away) is important to me. I consider Helios’ family my English family.
So, we’re going to see his folks again between Christmas and New Year. I’m obviously looking forward to it.