The door is nudged opened and the pups leap into bed. Then they leap off and race out. Across the corridor I hear Cici scream “no, no, not in my mouth!”
I hold Andrew tight for a moment then tell him I’ll get the coffee on.
In the space of no time we’re all downstairs, half an hour later my retired father appears in his slippers. We chat, the kitchen is abuzz. Coffee, tea, fresh bowls of fruit.
Before we know it, midday fast approaches. None of us have really left the comfort of the kitchen. I change into a marginally festive outfit. Cici has amazingly sourced the same wine we enjoyed together while searching for Richard the Friendly Ghost in South Africa in September. She is amazing. The bottle is cold, crisp, we all dive in and toast.
Background soundtracks play.
The chatter is constant. The smells from the ovens are delicious. I have a vegan spread from a local supplier. The pups are borderline feral at the smell of organic free range grass fed turkey. They rarely smell meat.
We break into the second Boschendal.
We all toast to our grandfather, my mothers father. We toast to family. We celebrate those before us and no longer with us. Christmas has always been an aloof celebration in our family home. One year, as my uncle received a call just before midnight, my cousin and I fought our way into the back seat. My father was is in the middle east. It had been a week since we had heard from a British embassy. It was a muddled and ambiguous message. Then radio silence. In that time, a new war had started and the Bush administration was in the news daily and Blair was onboard and it was so confusing. Our mother held it together, telling us that things were okay and that we knew the drill. As a unit, the three Muscateers, we were prepared by officials on how to proceed in the event of hostage situations and kidnappings. That night, driving the dark lanes with my uncle, it was like that opening chords of Creedence Clearwater Revivals Fortunate Son on repeat. I held my cousins head as she fell asleep, I kept talking to my uncle to keep him awake. We played music loud with the windows down - the Stones, Rod Stewart, Bowie. It was a mission. War was starting and the time was ticking and it was Christmas and I was a child who really wanted to see her father safe. In his rover we screeched into an empty train station car park. Slumped with a duffle bag was an exhausted man. I remember the feeling of throwing the door open before we stopped and running, screaming, screaming. Then being held and holding an exhausted man who has just faced an arduous return to safety. I was told to sleep, so I curled into my cousin on the back seat. We were safe, we were on our way back to our roots in Dorset and fall into the unit that we were.
There are other tales of human perseverance, strength, effort beyond that which we can imagine. Our mother was the true christmas miracle each year, holding it together.
Back to reality we toast to her.
I say something flippant to Cici and we stir emotion. We make up.
Then, another glass of Boschendal in, we start holiday planning. Zambia is on the list next year, or maybe Namibia, definitely the Okavango. My papa decides he wants to go “next week” so I scramble for any last minute deals “why can’t you come?!” he tells me. Um… theres not really a true reason. We decide April is probably best for a holiday.
Christmas dinner is excellent. We eat so much. The food and wine is excellent.
Conversations linger for hours.
Family friends drop by.
I pour prosecco. I turn on flamboyance, affability, and pour myself a glass.
As the house falls silent into the late hours I am gifted something incredibly special. I loose my breath for the longest moment. It’s my Bobbas wedding band. With Andrew we push it onto my wedding finger with my own bands. It’s a yellow gold, and it fits effortlessly with my bands. I hold my breath. I would play with this ring on Bobbas fingers, spinning it round on her slender fingers while she would tell me stories. Wow. My breath is gone.