I was reminded a lot recently of that old proverb, Yiddish, I think that goes ‘We plan, God laughs.’ It came to me at moments when I was either cleaning up puke, or tending to a chicken pox itch, on the busiest week of the year....
• REMEMBER back to when you were doing an exam and the invigilator would say: ‘Right that’s it now, put the pens down please, your time is up.’ Well, that’s where we’re at on the festive calendar, the time is up, and do you know what I’m ready for it. What’s done is done, and what’s not done is … quite a lot, and what about it. With age comes perspective (most of the time) and I’m old enough to know what’s important. And running around like a headless chicken (turkey?) trying to buy stuff that no one really wants, getting emotionally and financially strung out on the way, is definitely not important. And that’s not a cop out by me either … swear to god. Nope. Definitely not.
• What helped me to get to this almost zen-like stage of acceptance was a bout of lurgy that hit the household. A common, but still nasty, old bug knocked us out one by one, taking with it, all our best made (last minute) plans. We had to slow down, ahead of the official planned slow down date, and do you know what it was almost a blessing in disguise! The six-year-old’s uncanny knack of puking anywhere but the bowl felt like less of a blessing, but when you’ve been feeling miserable for a few days and then suddenly you’re better again, there is definitely a new found appreciation for life.
• We rallied in time for the school nativity which I think is going to be pretty hard to beat in terms of top memories for Christmas 2023. From the get-go I was a blubbering wreck, and not just because I was afraid the six year old would get sick on stage with a fit of coughing either. It was just so lovely to see all of the kids shine in their own way, that it would melt a heart of stone. It reminded me of my own stage debut when I was around seven. I was taking part in a ballet concert in the Town Hall in Bandon and a few minutes before the curtain went up, I started throwing up. There’s a picture of me in a white tutu, looking scarily pale (almost blue) and absolutely terrified. My pageboy hairstyle did not help. I wouldn’t have looked out of place in some sort of a creepy horror film. Safe to say that shelved any plans I might have had of joining the Bolshoi Ballet – or ever stepping on stage again. But to see all the local national school kids belting out their lines so confidently, did me the world of good.
• So, all was good in the world for a few days after that. Precisely until Monday morning when the six-year-old, over breakfast, started pointing out little spots on her arms and neck to me. ‘What are these?’ she asked. ‘Let me see,’ I said. My blood ran cold. My heart skipped a beat. A quick inspection revealed they were on her tummy and her back too. So, I did what I always do in an emergency and rang my mother. I didn’t like her take on things one bit, as she said it was almost certainly chicken pox. Next I started frantic googling, and all results also pointed to chicken pox. Then I wondered could I just sort of ignore the whole situation and send her off to school anyway. Sure, I had the lunch made and packed and it would be a shame to waste it! I also wondered could it possibly be something like bed bugs, or even fleas from the dog? Both sounded more palatable at that hour than flipping chicken pox. Hysteria was setting in. At that stage though the pox were popping up as fast as popcorn in a pan, so I made a doctor’s appointment, and on first sight, it was confirmed. Now, I know it’s not the end of the world, and it’s far better to get the pox as a kid than an adult, but I’m not joking when I say every minute of that day, and the following two days before the school holidays was fully accounted for – and not with trips to the spa, or lunch with the girls type of things either, but mundane, daily life sort of stuff that had to be seen to. And I most certainly hadn’t factored in chicken pox and someone updating me on their itch every 30 seconds. Another very definite sign from the universe about the best made plans and all the rest.
• So anyway, the next few days (and nights) were spent attending to the itch, applying various lotions to the spots, (I recommend Poxclin, it’s not everywhere so pounce on a bottle if you see it) and, yes, just basically attending to the itch. I had to scratch everything else off the list. (c’mon, give me that one … my very last nerve is gone at this stage!).
• Confined to the couch, and with one hand mainly itching a belly or a back, I used my free hand to flick through the bumper Christmas edition of the RTÉ Guide, and it brought me back. As kids, as soon as it arrived in shops we’d get a copy, and we’d all get a different colour pen and mark in what we wanted to watch. This was back in the days of two channels so the excitement of having so much choice and novelty meant that TV was a big part of my childhood Christmases. Sure, I couldn’t resist taking out the pen and marking a few bits here and there even if it’s only aspirational (I’m way too scared to make any plans now … the universe is listening to me!). But in case anyone’s wondering, yes, Mrs Brown’s Boys is on Christmas night (after the five-hour episode of EastEnders). Sure, we’d miss it now if it wasn’t!
• One tradition I had to abandon this year, due to the pox, was the making of my ‘famous in family circles’ mince pies. I soak the fruit overnight in brandy which gives them a nice little kick! What with the house being up in a heap, it just never happened, and I had made my peace with that, only to discover two dozen that I had made last year tucked away in at the back of the chest freezer. They tasted perfect (maybe the Brandy butter helped), and do you know what, I’m claiming it as my own Christmas miracle! Unless of course they give us all gastro, in which case I officially give up.
• Finally, I wish you all a peaceful and pox-free Christmas. Keep calm and just carry on … after all we’ve still the New Year to get through!