Christmas has well and truly arrived chez Orange. The tree is adorned with handmade loveliness (not made by my own fair hands I must add, but purchased from the wonderful people at Sconner Wood Christmas Tree Farm), the stockings are hanging expectantly in front of the fireplace and free flow consumption of mulled cider has begun in earnest. Piece by piece, our new home is gradually coming together and we now, at last, have a working oven in which to cook our goose, a sofa to sit on to unwrap our Christmas presents and a gorgeous farmhouse table (thank you eBay) at which we will, no doubt, eat far too much.
This Christmas, I hope, will be extra special for us. There have been times this year when I didn’t know whether we’d have Orange with us for another Christmas. Last year I was consumed with worry over whether he’d be able to hold his own body up to sit at the Christmas table with us and, while his disabilities are still a huge concern, my expectations have changed and now I just feel so grateful to have him here with us.
I don’t know how much of Christmas Orange will understand. It would be easy to focus on Beep, who started singing Christmas carols about a month ago after a brief, three month, respite and is convinced that Father Christmas is in the lighthouse, watching all the children in the village to make sure they’re being good. She has leapt into the whole Christmas experience with gusto.
More than anything, I want to make Christmas as magical for Orange as it is for Beep. Thinking back to Christmas 2010 when Beep was nearly two, the sting of comparison smarts more than a little. Trotting about on sturdy little legs, ‘cooking’ busily in her shiny new red kitchen and singing along boisterously to Jingle Bells, she was already an independent little girl. Even at her first Christmas, at 11 months old, she helped decorate the tree and dug about excitedly in her Christmas stocking for loot to unwrap. At 21 months, Orange won’t be able to do any of these things. He is still very much a baby. I recognise the sadness that many mothers feel when their youngest child leaves the baby stage but I find myself now yearning for Orange to gain a little independence, to be able to access his world, explore and enjoy it, the way a typical toddler can. At Christmas, these feelings are magnified.
What do you give a toddler who can’t stand, walk or conjure up imaginative play? Planning Christmas for Orange has certainly required some creativity and if I can’t bring him joy with the usual toy kitchens, scooters and diggers then I am determined to do so by other means. With some careful research we have chosen a few little gifts that will bring him enjoyment and, more importantly, we can still give him the experience of Christmas. The cool viscid scent of pine trees at the Christmas tree farm, the tangly delight of scritch scratching about in Santa’s beard, the enchantment and comfort of human voices and brass instruments ringing out a jubilant melody. Christmas is a sensory paradise for Orange, who comes alive with music and finds much amusement in the merrymaking of others. Just last week he was roaring with laughter, properly chuckling and squealing with glee, at the absurdity of a Punch and Judy show. I can’t wait to see what he makes of listening to the Polperro Fishermen singing Christmas carols at Cotehele, riding on the steam train through the Cornish countryside with Santa and his Elves, and watching the lantern parade through our village this weekend.
Christmas, for me, has always been a great marker of time. A gentle grounding, bringing one year to a close with happiness and celebration, no matter what has passed before it, and harvesting fresh hope and enthusiasm for the next. I daren’t wonder what Orange will be doing by next Christmas, but I can enjoy these moments, right here and right now that, without Orange in our lives, we wouldn’t be seeing, hearing, feeling or tasting with so much lucidity and gratitude.