Her life looks enviable but she got nothing for Christmas

For some people this time of year isn’t so much a celebration as an endurance test

Listen up, kids: Christmas is supposed to be an orgy of materialism, drones that don’t work, expensive computer games, motorised scooters, miniature mopeds that cost the same as a small family car. Photograph: Getty Images

Listen up, kids: Christmas is supposed to be an orgy of materialism, drones that don’t work, expensive computer games, motorised scooters, miniature mopeds that cost the same as a small family car. Photograph: Getty Images

 

My three-year-old wrote her letter to Santa a month ago. She asked for Frubes. Yes, the yoghurt.

I tweeted this recently, and other people shared the best things their children had ever asked for from Santa. A friend’s seven-year-old child is holding out for a tin of pineapple rings. Other little people out there will be hoping to wake up in nine days’ time to cauliflower cheese, a satsuma, “a flat pencil case that won’t fall over on her desk”, a medal like her mum got for running, or “more toes” (“so she can run faster and no one else in her class will have as many toes,” her mother explains. “Obviously.”) Someone else’s three-year-old asked for plain brown socks and plain yellow pyjamas.

Ciara’s three-year-old wants “the furry thing that you put by your face”, which turned out, on investigation, to Ciara’s sinking heart to be bagpipes. Aren’t three-year-olds the most brilliantly certain, cranky little creatures?

Another small fellow has written to Santa to request “a top with no patches”. “He’s like something out of Angela’s Ashes,” his mother said, mystified.

Just a tiny bit heartbreakingly, a Twitter friend’s seven-year-old only wants her Winnie back, the Ikea comforter she lost in February. Santa has been having some trouble finding one, because Ikea no longer makes Winnie.

These miniature people haven’t learned yet what they’ll figure out some time over the next few years (or, let’s face it, sometime over the next couple of weeks): they’ve got it all wrong. Christmas is not supposed to be about simple pleasures like yoghurts, brown socks, pencil cases or pineapple rings. Or even hoped-for reunions with lost teddies, or tops that don’t look like they were rescued from a tenement house in 1940s Limerick.

Orgy of materialism

That’s not the idea at all. It is supposed to be an orgy of materialism, drones that don’t work, expensive computer games, motorised scooters, miniature mopeds that cost the same as a small family car. It is supposed to be a hectic schedules of family rows, messy, boozy nights that make you hopeless, and lunches that make you bloated and generally cross.

For me, it should be about hitting the pause button and taking a moment to recognise when you’ve got it good

I should say here that some little people are apparently beginning to get the idea: my friend Tara’s child has asked for “the sleigh”. Not a sleigh. The sleigh. Another miniature James McClean out there is hoping to wake up and find the entire house astro-turfed. Then there’s Sinead’s daughter, who asked for a pig when she was three. Santa brought her a fluffy one. “She has never forgiven him for not listening. She’s 22,” Sinead says. “And vegetarian.”

But I do think we could all learn from the little people with the requests for pencil cases and the yoghurts and the lost Winnie and just lower our expectations a little bit. Rein it in, dial it back, tone it down. Take a breath. Remember that there are some people for whom this time of year isn’t so much a celebration as an endurance test, a reminder of all the things they have lost. Of the things they never had to begin with. Of the things they might have in the future, but not just yet. For them, there’s no joy to be found in the frantic rushing around for the last packet of biscuits for the tiramisu, or the search for brown socks or bagpipes, or the chance encounters on Grafton Street. For them, the best they can manage is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and making it through to January.

Last year, I spoke to a woman who hadn’t got anything for Christmas. The previous year, the only present she received was a Galaxy bar. She was pleased with that, she said. It came from a very thoughtful employee, and it meant a lot. This woman, outwardly, has a wonderful, enviable life. And in many respects, it is wonderful – she has a job she loves, success, recognition, clients who appreciate her and financial comfort.

Spirituality

But at this time of the year, it doesn’t always feel that way. I’ll be thinking about her and others like her this year, as I try – again – not to lose the run of myself and forget what it’s all really about. Not being religious, I don’t mean religion – though it is the one time of the year when I envy those who are capable of immersing themselves in the reflection and spirituality of the occasion. (The transcendent feeling when you finally track down the last remaining Hatchimals in Ireland doesn’t count.) For me, it should be about hitting the pause button and taking a moment to recognise when you’ve got it good. It should be about family and rest and bracing walks and long games of Catan, the board game with which my older children are obsessed. It’s about good food and wine and abundant Frubes. 

(For one little girl, this year, it will also be about a reunion. Minutes after her dad put the word on Twitter, word had it that one of Santa’s elves was about to track Winnie down on eBay. It’s the little things.)

 joconnell@irishtimes.com

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