The smell of wood-fire smoke. The curl of blue from the chimney. Will Santa be able to come down? Don’t light the fire on Christmas Eve, okay, Dad?
The sparkle of frost on grass. The shine from the holly bush. The clipped branches strewn in corners, on hearths. The crisp, bright mornings. The walks in the woods. Red noses for everyone, not just Rudolph. Will there be snow?
The trip to town. The sibling presents – because there wasn’t enough for the parents to organise already. The visit to Santa, the questions, the shy, mumbled answers. The photograph. The unwrapping. The memories.
The twinkle of lights on the tree. The Late Late Toy Show. The box of Quality Street. The old decorations, side by side with the new decorations. Everything changes and everything stays the same.
Christmas Morning. Tiptoeing down the stairs. Peeking in, to make sure he’s been and to make sure he’s gone. Eyes wide, taking it in. The rush to the tree. The once-a-year unlike-anything-else excitement. The pure childhood joy. The pure adulthood joy.
The magic set that keeps everyone entertained all day Christmas Day. The doll in the pram. The knitting set. The Barbie car. The Sylvanians. The books. The annuals. Always an annual. The stockings. The surprisingly practical gifts in the stockings – socks and batteries and playing cards. And why not. Santa’s a practical man.
The getting older. The switch from dolls and trains to books and games. Music and clothes replacing roller skates and cots. But always a selection box. Everything changes and everything stays the same.
The smell of the tree. The turkey in the oven. The debate about Brussels Sprouts. The empty seat and the tight throat, the first year is always the worst. New babies, new places set at the table, space on the couch for ever more viewers as we flick through the RTÉ Guide – The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? All of the above. Everything changes and everything stays the same.
It’s 1985 and I’m right back there. It’s 2019 and I’m right here. Everything changes and everything stays the same.