It began as any other day. I woke up to the pre-recorded sound of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day blaring from my alarm clock. I got washed and dressed, put on my sparkly angel earrings, and switched on the ‘outrageous outdoor illuminations’ that my husband refers to. The shout of ‘Ho ho ho!’ from the garden Santa filled me with a warm feeling inside.
I stepped out into the sunshine, walked past the tulips and the nativity scene, towards my countdown board. I changed the display to read ‘Only another 207 days to go!’. Every day my anticipation grew! As normal, a group of teenagers passed, pointing and laughing at ‘Crazy Carol’s Christmas Countdown’. I gave them my ‘joy to the world and goodwill to all men’ smile, as they walked on.
Thursday was my favourite day of the week. Nurse Laura (one of the few people to share my complete addiction to sleigh bells, Santas and snowmen) always brought kids from her hospice to visit.
On this particular day, she brought Sally, a regular little visitor. Judging by the reindeer antlered cap she was wearing to cover her hairless head, she had quickly become one of us. I tried not to look at the countdown board, as I noticed how much more weak she appeared this time.
“New decorations!” Her pale face suddenly broke into a grin, as she entered the house, and studied the dancing snowman on the hearth.
“She’s been so excited about coming here.” Laura’s own eyes danced with mischief. “We‘ve heard nothing else this morning.”
Sally enjoyed the familiar fun of making gingerbread decorations, while Laura and I caught up on the latest news over a cup of cocoa. Both left with recharged batteries, their infectious laughter ringing in my ears.
So far, it was a pretty ordinary Thursday. My husband, Sam returned home from work that evening and greeted me with a kiss, ignoring the din of Jingle Bells mashed with White Christmas. This was something he had learned to do over the years. He had overcome his Scrooge-like tendancies in order to keep me happy.
It was while I was carving the turkey, that I heard a loud crash coming from the lounge. Leaving the large bird, I walked in to find my dancing snowman convulsing on the floor where he had been thrown, stuttering “Mer-mer-mer-merry Christmas!”. A ceramic Santa lay shattered beside him. Looking through the window, I saw that the lights had been turned off, and Sam was removing the countdown board from its stand.
“What are you doing?” I ran into the garden in a rage. He held the countdown board in one hand, and a letter in the other.
“Have you seen this?” Sam dropped the board less than delicately at my feet, and handed me the letter. It was an electricity bill, which seemed to have two digits extra this month.
“This has to stop!” My once placid husband began ripping decorations off the tree like a gratuitous grinch. “I - just - can’t - stand it anymore!” Each word was punctuated by a bauble being bounced along the path. “Christmas music, Christmas countdown - It’s May for goodness sake! We have to do something about this.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you felt like this?”
A whole neighbourhood stood open-mouthed at each window. My once wise man now lay crumpled at the foot of the tree, like torn wrapping paper. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed.
It was then that I realised my festive fascination had gone too far. I had managed to drive Sam crackers!
Two years later, I’m still hanging my decorations, singing along to Christmas tracks, at the newly opened Winter Wonderland here at the children’s hospice. My large garden Santa now provides a cheerful entrance to the building. Laura and I take Christmas workshops, helping the kids to make crafts and cards. Sally (who now has beautiful, bobbed brown hair) comes to help us, occasionally joined by you’ll never guess who - Sam! He actually enjoys Christmas when celebrated in the correct season.
Only two items from the house formerly known as Santa’s year-long grotto remain. My dancing (rather juddering) snowman still entertains us on the hearth, while the countdown board still stands at the front of the house. Well, Sam did say we could come to a compromise, and I couldn’t give up my trademark.
Only another fifty-four days to go!
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