This year Christmas was different. There's a lot going on at the moment and so I felt like I was grabbing gifts at the last minute (and no time for being creative with pretty wrapping). Packing to come up to Mum and Dads was done over several nights at 10pm, the only time I could fit it in.
This year it was just the three of us, it happened that it was everyone's turn to be somewhere else this year. Dad wondered if we'd like to try something different, so the three of us went down to the local community centre to help at the free community Christmas lunch.
I was really keen to do it, but also a bit nervous. It wasn't anything I had done before and didn't quite know what to expect. The lunch was open to anyone who didn't have anywhere else to go, and wanted a nice Christmas lunch. I thought it would be a whole lot of people off the streets, and while there were a whole lot of people that clearly were doing it tough.
But there were also backpackers with heavy Swedish accents, families with kids, older couples dressed up in their Sunday best with no where to go.
I never consider myself to be wealthy. I can live well but I'm not rich by societies standards. Yet as I handed out turkey and beetroot (those were my dishes on the table) I was acutely aware of the nice jewellery I wore, my newly tinted hair, my presents waiting for me at home. Not that I would give them away but I was aware of the fact that there are people in my own backyard ( so to speak) who would see me as incredibly well off.
I wondered if I would feel pity, and I did. I wondered if that would make me feel self righteous for 'giving up' my Christmas to come help. I felt almost embarrassed serving these people; who am I to serve you? It almost felt awkward, like 'look at me, I'm such a good person helping you less fortunate people'.
Most of the people we served were lovely and appreciative (especially the elderly people, I wondered if they had family who couldn't come to see them, or if they were all alone) but some others gave me looks that made me more self conscious of the situation.
I think it was the kids that got to me the most (which is understandable). Did they get many gifts this Christmas? Did their parents do without to get them something? Did their parents feel embarrassed coming to one of these dinners? Or did they see it just as a free lunch to take advantage of? I kind of feel you have to be pretty isolated from most people to have no where else to go. I wanted to make up packs for them with colouring books and bubbles and a book to read. I wanted to do face painting.
At most parties and gatherings I often find myself ending up in the kitchen. I feel better when I have something useful to do with my hands, away from the crowds. As much as I wanted to sit and talk, I got shy and found myself in the kitchen, where there was a shortage of volunteers anyway, with a tea towel in my hand.
There's something calming for me about working quietly alongside like minded people. Moving the hundreds of plates and bowls through the dishwasher and drying, stacking, putting them away.
We came home and had a quiet afternoon, then had 'our' Christmas at night. It was yummy, but still quite low key compared to some years. I didn't miss all the trimmings. I missed the people, my brother and sister-in-law, Grandma, my Aunts, Uncles, Pa, cousins. When I daydream about having a large family one day, a tiny part is so one day I can have big Christmases like I remembered from when I was younger; when we would be back on furlough so Dad wasn't working Christmas day and we could go to where all the relatives were and have crazy big family gatherings. Now everyone is grown up and spread out far away.
I really liked today. We still could have the big crowds gathering even with just the 3 of us at home. I'd happily do it again. And I totally understand why if you were isolated you'd rather come to a big community lunch than sit at home across the table from no-one. But I'd also like to come home afterwards to a house full of people who I love, wear silly bon-bon hats, talk and laugh and be together.