Everyone in the shop was smiling today. I was pleased. We had just bought a real Christmas tree – not, I would like to emphasise, in a fever of exhaustion and at the very last minute as usual, but at our leisure and in simply gallons of time for Christmas.
I’d called into the shop on the way home to get a few bits. All of a sudden there were lots of really lovely Christmassy things to buy – natural wreaths smelling of pine needles, hand-made wooden reindeer with branches and twigs for antlers and smudges of red paint for their noses, scarlet poinsettias, gold-wrapped pyramids of chocolates, home-made mince pies, giant be-ribboned balls of Ferrero Rochas, red-and-gold Christmas crackers and lovely boxes of extravagant things to eat and drink.
“I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year” said the woman beside me as she selected a handful of beautiful cards for her daughter and son-in-law, grandchildren and husband. “The last few years have been so depressing!”
On impulse, I decided to get some really special Christmas cards this year for some of my loved ones too, before they were all gone. You know, the kind of extravagant bespoke cards that don’t all come stacked together in a cardboard box.
Those are a staple of every family Christmas and I’ll certainly get more than one box of them, but suddenly I wanted more; I felt happy and festive and extravagant, and I wanted to share the love.
Twenty minutes later, I staggered back to the car with a 2ft high hand-made reindeer made of logs, a beautiful pine wreath for the front door with gold baubles and a big red hessian bow, three poinsettias, a dozen mince pies, some of the giant Ferrero Rochas balls for the Christmas stockings, and a large brown paper bag of stunningly beautiful bespoke Christmas cards.
“These have only just come in,” the assistant had said approvingly as she rang up the cards. “They’ll be all gone again by the end of next week. You’re right to get them now. They always go really quick.”
“Dear, God,” my husband said. “You took forever. I thought you were just going in for some lemons.”
“Oh,” I said happily, as I carefully unloaded the poinsettias, the giant Ferrero Rochas, the hand-made log reindeer, the wreath and the bag of mince pies into the back of the car, “I forgot the lemons.”
He peered into the brown paper bag. “Phew,” he said, “they’re fancy-looking! You can get 10 in a box for €2.99, you know. How much was that lot?”
I coughed. “Em, how much was what? Everything?”
He glinted at me. “No. How much were those fancy Christmas cards?”
“Eh, around €30,” I mumbled.
“What?” he shrieked.“What did you say?”
“Em, €33.90,” I said feebly.
He blinked at me, his mouth agape.
“You paid nearly €35 for six Christmas cards?”
“There’s a really nice one in there for you too,” I wheedled, “look! And I got these lovely gold-and purple ones for your Mum and my Mum with the cute little heart-shaped pink and purple gems on them. Look, they even come in their own boxes.”
“They’d want to, at that price” he muttered.
I sighed. The Christmas bubble was starting to dissipate.
My husband settled his favourite battered woolly hat over his ears and nosed the car carefully out into the late Saturday morning traffic, the trailer with the Christmas tree rattling behind us.
“I beg your pardon?” I said. “You hope I’ve got one what in there for myself?”
“Your own Christmas card. The price of them, like.”
“You want me to buy my own ‘Happy Christmas to my Wife’ Christmas card?” I said, outraged. “Are you serious?”
I fumed as he turned on the radio. Christmas In Our Hearts, by Jose Mari Chan, came on.
“Wherever there are people giving gifts, exchanging cards, I believe that Christmas is truly in their hearts,” trilled Jose.