Christmas 2020 | The Quiet One

Monday 28 December 2020

Christmas bunting mantelpiece Christmas home decor

Christmas 2020 was always going to be different wasn't it? I expected it to be quieter than usual. I expected to miss people. But I never expected how this one would turn out. 

In blogs and across social media, it's very easy to share the good times and shiny stuff. What's harder sometimes is to be real and a bit raw. I'm going to try my best to be those things in this post. 

2020 has been a hell of a ride, so I think we were all ready for a little festive cheer. With a lot of the usual rituals off limits - taking the kids to meet Santa, work Christmas parties - the ones we could keep to felt even more important. 

From the very start of December, we were watching festive films, baking gingerbread and mince pies and having the kids write letters to Father Christmas. Now that the children are a little older, it's been a lot of fun introducing them to stuff like the Home Alone movies! 

Winter decorated windows decals Christmas

Our neighbourhood also did a Winter Windows Trail. Over 120 of the local houses where we live decorated their windows and you could get a trail map and walk around to see all the displays. We had so much fun on our frosty walk spotting all the windows and it was a lovely way to kick off the holiday season while observing the social distancing that has ruled all our lives this year. 

We also still did our annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree - with the usual exacting specifications to meet. The children are big enough to really help decorate this year and I loved explaining the story behind each of the special ornaments we've collected over the years. 

Christmas plans this year were always going to be small. We usually have a big extended family get together with the kids racing around with their cousins, but because of the numbers involved we just couldn't make it work under the current restrictions. 

Our plan was just to have my mother and father in law to stay at ours. The Mr's mama is a wonderful lady who I love a lot, and she said she missed the excitement of when her kids were young and the joy of Christmas morning, so we thought we'd try and give that back. 

Unfortunately, 2020 had other ideas. 

After miraculously making it through Theo's first term at school with no Covid closures, we got an email the Monday after term finished saying that there had been a positive case in one of his classmates and he had to isolate for ten days. That wiped out our modest Christmas plans, which was a bit of a blow as we'd so been looking forward to it. 

We decided to move our 'Christmas dinner' to the 28th, when we'd be out of isolation and the family could join us. There seemed very little point doing a turkey and all the trimmings for the two of us and a toddler - Theo is a vegetarian so he wouldn't have been eating it anyway!

I wondered if Christmas would feel a little flat because of all the changes but the beauty of small children is that they are just so excited, and you can't help but get swept up in it all. 

On Christmas Eve, the kids unwrapped a couple of gifts - new pyjamas and a WWF adoption pack with a little cuddly toy. We adopted a snow leopard for Theo and a polar bear for Romilly. Obviously, Romy was more into the cuddly toy, but Theo is highly environmentally conscious and was really interested in learning about conservation efforts. 

Christmas morning was actually really lovely. I've been having trouble waking up in these dark mornings lately, but I woke naturally at quarter to six for some reason. We sat in bed with a cup of tea waiting for the kids to wake up and discover that Santa had been. It was a little pocket of calm and Christmas spirit and we both loved it. 

About 7.30, Romilly woke up and we decided to wake Theo ourselves. They came for a cuddle in our bed and opened their stocking gifts. There's really nothing better than how excited and happy children are at Christmas - it was the magic we so desperately needed this year. 

It's become one of our silly little traditions to sit and eat Kinder Hippos in bed, so we made sure we did that too! 

Downstairs, the kids opened all their gifts while we enjoyed coffee and breakfast together. We try to stagger out the opening as much as possible - we like the kids to look at and hopefully appreciate the things they get. 

They were a bit spoilt this year as they both got new bikes, plus Theo had asked for a fossil as he's dinosaur mad. We managed to get him a real Spinosaurus tooth which is hopefully something he will have and treasure forever. 

Cooking was a highlight of the day. We decided to make a Beef Wellington, which I haven't done for a long time. After spending years living with an awful kitchen and a dodgy oven while we slowly renovated No. 80, it felt like such a treat to be preparing a feast together in our new dream kitchen. 

It was a very quiet Christmas but we really took joy in our children and the family time together - so it ended up quite perfect. It wouldn't stay that way for long. Things were about to take a bit of a darker turn that I could never have expected. 

My mum discovered earlier in the year that she had ovarian cancer. It was a tough time as she lives about six hours away from us in Cornwall and had to shield so I couldn't go and see her. She went through several rounds of chemotherapy and lost all her hair, but she never stopped battling or having a brilliant sense of humour about it all. 

She was so ill from the treatment but she told me she was just making the most of the good days and accepting the bad days when she was too sick to move as a write off. I won't pretend we've always had a perfect relationship, and it's been hard with her so far away, but I really discovered greater depths of respect and love for her courage in the face of such a challenge. I never once believed she wouldn't beat it - she was so vital and positive about everything. 

About two weeks before Christmas, she was scheduled for a full hysterectomy. I called her just before she went into hospital and she said she was scared to undergo the six hour operation, but we were all hoping it would be the start of her recovery. 

When she came out of theatre, I had an update from her partner to say that the operation had been a bit more complicated than first thought. They discovered that the cancer had spread and they needed to remove some of her intestines. But the surgeon was confident they had managed to remove what they needed to and that things had gone well overall.

The next few days were difficult. Mum was on the high dependency unit. She was on a lot of pain medication and very tired, so we didn't hear a lot from her directly. News of her came via her partner and by calling the nurses on the ward - she wasn't allowed visitors due to Covid restrictions at the hospital. 

She was having trouble eating, and her digestion hadn't restarted properly after the operation. The had to keep her in hospital on a drip for nutrition so she couldn't be discharged, and the thought of her having to spend Christmas in hospital was pretty crushing. 

Still, we hoped it meant that she could face 2021 focused on getting better. 

On Christmas Day, I finally got a text from her directly, saying that she was feeling a bit better and sending her love. She had sewn some personalised Christmas stockings for Theo and Romilly and wanted to be sure they'd arrived in time. 

Boxing Day morning, the sky fell in. I woke up to missed calls, messages and voicemails from the middle of the night saying that Mum had a serious infection, she'd been rushed for emergency surgery and that doctors had put her into an induced coma until Sunday to help her body have a chance of fighting it. 

In a complete panic, I didn't know if I should be throwing things in a bag and jumping in the car. I didn't know if I would be allowed to see her. 

In the end, events overtook any of that, because I got a phone call from my aunt to say that she'd been told to go into the hospital straight away. 

Doctors said the infection was so far out of control, they couldn't do anything more and that they would be switching her life support off. She died about ten minutes later with my auntie holding her hand. 

I don't have words to describe the shock and agony that followed here and is still going on. Grief is not a pretty emotion. I never expected it to be so physical or so immediate. 

The pure disbelief that we had all thought she was getting better and the speed with which the situation went from bad to worse is like a punch in the gut. I never believed for a single second that she wouldn't be okay. 

My mum led a very colourful, rock and roll life. I never really got to know her as an adult, and her getting ill had made me realise that there was so much I wanted to ask her about herself and her experiences. I thought we'd do just that 'one day'. Until all the days ran out while I wasn't looking. 

I can't say a lot more as it's still so new and painful, but I'm trying to celebrate her life in my own way. I've spent the days since going through the pictures I have of her and the letters and cards she wrote to me. 

Mum was very into crystals and natural healing. When things happened, she would always tell me to 'light a candle'. It was kind of Law of Attraction stuff way before that was so popular! 

I ordered a beautiful candle from Wicks+Stones with a cleansing Pyrite crystal in that I can light to remember her and think of all the things I didn't get to say to her, as well as a rose quartz necklace for 'love' that I can wear to remember her by. She gave me a rose quartz stone years and years ago to 'bring love into my life'. I sent her a similar one in a care package when she started cancer treatment so it feels comforting to wear one in her memory now. 

When Storm Bella blew in that night it felt very much like mum taking her curtain call. Wild and free, out there somewhere. Rest easy, mama. Goodnight. 

If there's one thing I know beyond all doubt now, it's to treasure every little family moment, because it can be taken away when you least expect it. So I hope your Christmas was full of quiet joy and that you find strength in your loved ones this w inter. 

Here's to a brighter 2021. 

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