Sunday, 11 December 2011

Gifts from the past

Travelling hopefully towards Christmas as the third Sunday in Advent arrives I feel the memories of Christmas past rising up to greet me, and this rolling out of the carpet of seasonal memories is one of those things that makes Christmas special, a time to take stock and think back and forward in both joy and sadness, as I once more pause to ponder with Floss.


Some of the memories are of things long since gone, and some are of the comforting continuities in life. And one of the continuities in our house is carpet farming - just as I think that those days are past, I find that carpet farming is once more underway and the riding school in business again - Princess Bunchy tells me that the riding school is an essential part of the celebrations for her, and that the mere sight of it makes her think of Christmas.


And the sight of my old riding school, so old that I couldn't possibly tell you how many years ago it entered my life, transports me back to the Christmas way back in history when this riding school was my special present - the Christmas when I was about five years old, one that stands out amongst many because it was one of those small tragedies of childhood that are never forgotten. This was the year that I woke up so very early and made a most tragically fatal mistake which cast a shadow over the whole day.

I awoke so early that all the family were still fast asleep, so early that it was long before the agreed time for waking my parents, and as I lay in bed in the dark I could see the mysterious lumpiness of the pillowcase overflowing with presents at the end of my bed, and the enticingly large parcel sitting alongside.

No one was stirring, the clock seemed to have stopped in its tracks, and I was consumed with desire to know what all those packages contained. And I could not contain myself but got out of bed, sat on the floor in the dim light, and started opening my presents one by one, all alone and solitary. I remember the riding stable, and the horses and riders, and fences and animals, but I don't remember one of those other presents - I opened every single one, with no one around to share my joy and excitement, and then a couple of hours later I had to sit and watch my sister open her own overflowing pillowcase of presents, very slowly it seemed, in the painful knowledge that I had burned my boats and jumped the gun, and completely taken the shine off the day.


From that year on, every Christmas eve I put my pillowcase out downstairs, safely out of temptation's way, and I resolved to open my presents as slowly  as possible, so that never again would I have to sit and watch others open theirs, but they could sit and wait for me to finish my careful unwrapping. And I have kept to that resolution ever since.

So Princess Bunchy's orderly arrangements of horses and sheep, and tractors and fences, all open up a box of memories of my childhood, my children's childhood, a long line of years marching back into the past, with faces long departed smiling out at me as my mind travels backward in time.


I hope that you have some happy memories of Christmas past, and more to be made and stored in Christmas present and Christmas yet to come.

30 comments:

Mrs. Micawber said...

I had a similar experience in my youth which involved peeking at a present and then "guessing" correctly to the giver about what it contained - which ruined it both for that person and myself. (I had forgotten all about that episode until now.)

Much better to wait for Christmas morning and the more joyful communal excitement.

Thank you for sharing these memories with us. The older we get the more precious they become, I think.

greenrabbitdesigns said...

Another lovely post Pomona. :)

Madelief said...

It's funny what Christmas does to you...I feel the same as you. All those beautiful memories of childhood, when my grandparents were still alive and we used to celebrate Christmas with them. The long drive to the south, the snow (winters were much colder then), the rabbit we always had as main course, the presents, the lovely tree, all the family members being present.....

I hope I can create this sort of memories for my children too :-)!

Happy new week,

Madelief x

Annie said...

And may you have myriad joyful Christmas memories still to make too Pomona.

One that stands out for me is the Christmas that my stocking presents, opened in the dawn light snuggled into my parents bed, all contained dolls house furniture. I think I was four, maybe five. There was a little puzzlement - I didn't have a dolls house - and then the dawning realisation that I would be finding one under the Christmas tree later that day. A surge of pure joy followed. And yes, my father had made me the most beautiful wooden dolls house, all carved and painted by him with gingerbread eaves and dormer windows for the attic bedrooms. And my mother had kitted it out with little needlepoint rugs and Liberty Lawn curtains, and dressed a family of tiny little dolls. The dolls house children even had their own Christmas present under a tiny tree, they got a dolls house too. It really was the most magical Christmas. And I hadn't given it a thought in years until I read your post, so thank you :D

Katy Cameron said...

Aww, what a lovely memory-carrying tradition (I'm chuckling at the idea of carpet farming though :oD )

dottycookie said...

I think we all did something like that - my worst was peeking at a present that I discovered early and was absolutely thrilled by, only to find on Christmas morning it was actually addressed to my little sister. Served me right!

Fat Dormouse said...

I rember a similar event - opening my pillow case, examining the presents and then putting the all back and pretending to be surprised later on that day! I don't know if I fooled people though!

VintageVicki said...

Am sure we've all done similar - we used to open our pillowcases as a room when I was younger (shared with 2 of my sisters).

The boys have always asked FC is he'd leave something at the top of the stocking they can open IF they wake up in the night - tis usually a book and some chocolate - think he needs to do the same this year too - even though they are almost 16 & 14!!

Amy said...

Is that the tradition there? To leave a pillowcase on your bedpost? Do you have gifts under the tree and stockings or does the pillowcase replace both?
Your story makes me smile. Seems to me there is still a bit of that in you...surprises aren't easy for you!

Little Blue Mouse said...

How lovely that your childhood toy is still being played with.
I must say it's the first toy riding school I've ever seen!

Pom Pom said...

What a great story! You are so wise to save the riding stable and all the horses. I love people who love horses!

wendz said...

Couldn't think what you meant by carpet farming - took a while to sink in. :) Brilliant phrase - and the riding school is lovely.

Come Christmas, it's very hard not to be swept away by the nostalgia and memories - some excellent ones lurking in the background.

That was a super read - thanks.

dragonfly said...

I think you may have disturbed some similar memories for me too!
I would have killed for that riding school!

magsmcc said...

Lovely! Thank you from another Pauser!

elizabethm said...

We do lots of carpet farming here but had never heard the phrase! Perfect. I shall adopt it immediately. It's so hard to resist when you are little but what a hard lesson to learn.

Catherine said...

Ooh I love your carpet farm! What a lovely tale, thank you for sharing it with us. Traveling towards Christmas hopefully...perfect : ) x

millefeuilles said...

Beautifully penned, Pomona! My Christmas memories are purely joyful; lucky old me. Would you believe I got the almost exact replica of your riding stables when I was six years old? We must be roughly the same age, I think!

I hope you are well and happy.... and not too giddy and stressed.

millefeuilles said...

Oh, and a relative bought my cousin and I a doll each and sewed and knitted a whole set of outfits for each! The clothes were amazing! My almost two year old is now playing with them... almost 38 years on.

Floss said...

That's a lovely play set. Your story is amazing - I don't think I was given the chance to peek, as everything was (wisely) left outside our doors, and I wonder what I would have done if given the opportunity. Like our Son 1 I have an excessive sense of Duty, so I might not have peeked... but I might have! It's interesting how much it bothered you. The ability to remember our own childhoods is very important, I think.

Our boys will be carpet farming (or floorboard farming, I suppose) once we get to my PILs! They have all Ben's old farm set, with some extraordinary agricultural machinery...

taylorsoutback said...

A touch of melancholy for me...I too remember Christmas celebrations from the growing up years...huge family gatherings around an endless mahogany table...the fragrance of turkey, and for some crazy reason, enjoying a rare Coca-cola from a thick green glass bottle. My Grammy & dear aunts and uncles no longer with us...but like you...the memories stay forever.

A lovely post, Pomona - thank you for the gift of your writing.

silverpebble said...

I loved your story and it's wonderful that your girl is still playing with the riding school. The term 'carpet farming is perfect. We do a good deal of 'carpet baking'. The tiny dried pasta and buttons come out and we're off.

Helen Philipps said...

Such a poignant story, Pomona! It made me remember some of the presents I received as a child too. I didn't actually open anything early, but I do remember feeling the shapes in the semi darkness! Lovely that you still have your Riding School too.
Enjoy your preparations, hope they are going well.
Helen x

Mommy en France said...

Lots of happy childhood Christmas memories and traditions... baking cutout cookies, setting up the creche, laying on my back under the tree with my sister, looking up through its branches at the twinkly lights and decorations... Ah, Christmas!

GardenofDaisies said...

I have never tried to peek early. I love the surprise and joy or all of us opening gifts together on Christmas day.
I think a bunch of presents in a pillowcase sounds wonderful.

millefeuilles said...

Hey Pomona,

I just wanted to check you were alright. I suspect you are snowed under with work/preparations but I have been thinking about you.

Stephanie

Lorrie said...

What a memory. I remember peeking once at gifts and like you, I've never done it again.

Merry Christmas!

Susan McShannon-Monteith said...

From across the pond Pomona a very Merry Christmas to you and yours...

Susan x

Barbara said...

What a lesson you learned as such a young child. So lovely when our children and grandchildren can play with a special present from the past. My grandson just loved my son's lego when he stayed here in the Summer. So different to the more sophisticated lego of today.

Christmas past - fond memories of my grandfather playing Father Christmas when we visited later in the day. He made it so real.

Rosa-Munda said...

Happy New Year Pomona.
Ros x

Susan McShannon-Monteith said...

I hope that you are well and nothing is amiss.
We miss your entertaining posts.
Take care Pomona.
Susan x

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