Like most of us, I suppose, at this time of year I often think about all the Christmases we've enjoyed with our other halves and our families over the years. Of course, the older we get the more Christmases there are to remember! Some Christmases are particularly special for various reasons - others more difficult - and some Christmas memories just give us a good story to make people laugh! Here are a few of my favourites from our own family archives:
* I met my husband on the 23 December at a teenage dance in the 1960s. I didn't know then, of course, how long it was going to last! But he did see me all the way home that first night (a journey of two bus-rides), even though it would mean a long walk back from my side of town to his afterwards. And he did take me to the Ilford Palais the next night - Christmas Eve - which, as I was still a schoolgirl, seemed like a really glamorous date! So I guess he got off to a good start!
* Our first daughter was 5 months old at her first Christmas, and we thought it would be nice, now we were a family, to have our Christmas dinner on our own with our baby before going to my parents in the afternoon. Our little one sat in her 'baby bouncer' crying all the way through our meal. But we put a paper hat on her and took a photo of her for the album - which seemed to cheer her up!
* Both our second and third daughters were born at Christmas time, so from then on it became both a busy time and a very special one for our family. Johnny Mathis' song 'When a Child Is Born' was released in 1976 when No.2. baby was due to be born, and we bought 3 copies: one for ourselves, and one for each set of parents, as it felt like 'our song'!
* Two years later, our youngest (third) daughter was actually due on Christmas day. We went to my parents for the day, and I was instructed to sit still, not move, and not to dare give birth until at least the dinner was over! In fact we made it home in the evening, and to bed, before things started happening - and she arrived on Boxing Day morning.
* I remember a Christmas Eve when the eldest daughter was playing Mary in her Sunday School nativity at the church carol service. Second daughter was only three, but she wanted a part too so she was allowed to be a donkey. We dressed her in brown trousers, brown jumper and a brown hat with cardboard ears attached - and pinned a tail on her trousers made from plaited brown wool. During the service she became bored and started twiddling with her tail, much to everyone's amusement, especially us - we were in pride of place in the front row, watching her!
* Then there was the Christmas when our oven died, halfway through cooking the turkey. Fortunately my next-door neighbour, a very good friend, had cooked hers on Christmas Eve so when I yelled over the fence for help, she was able to transfer our half-cooked bird to her oven!
* When the girls started school I started teaching music to groups of children after school - including our own daughters. At Christmas time, I'd teach them to play lots of carols on their recorders, and eventually I had some more advanced players who could play the tenor and treble recorders. I got the children playing two and three part harmonies and on the last lesson before Christmas, I always invited their parents to come and listen while we entertained them. Once or twice we were invited to play at carol services, and one year we also went out carol-singing, with some of the kids accompanying us on their recorders. We collected for the local hospice. I think about those evenings fondly now, when groups of kids knock on my door, mumble a couple of lines of 'We wish you a Merry Christmas' and expect a handout - for themselves!
* And then, on a very different note, there was the Christmas Eve when I was working at the hospital, when the after-work drinks party went on a bit, and I was enjoying myself, and ... somehow forgot I hadn't bought any vegetables for the Christmas dinner. The shops were closed by the time I got home. Oddly, I still can't remember what we ate with our turkey that year! I guess I must have had some frozen peas in the freezer!
* There was one year my brother, sister-in-law and their children came over from Australia for Christmas - and it snowed. The kids had never seen snow. We all went out for a walk in the woods and it was perfect - I think my neice still talks about it now she has her own children!
* And now we've come full circle. We're grandparents, and starting all over again with the lovely excitement of Christmas with a house full of little ones. Little Noah might not yet have a complete understanding of what it's all about but I'm sure he's going to enjoy it all this year. And as for our three new baby girls - now 5 and a half months, 4 months and nearly 2 months - all we can hope is that they feed, sleep and smile contentedly for us and that we get through the festivities without too much screaming (from children or adults!). Hopefully this year's will be another Christmas to remember.
I'm sure my daughters will remind me of others - good and bad - that I've left out. Maybe we'll talk about that over Christmas dinner! I'd like to finish off by wishing all my readers a very happy Christmas making your own special memories. And let's hope 2012 is a good year for us all.