A Christmas To RememberI will never forget Christmas Eve of 2008. It should have been a great night, singing at the park Hyatt hotel with my choir and then going on to the Christmas Eve service at St Patrick’s cathedral with the whole family. Then, once we got home hanging up our Santa sacks and putting out cookies and milk for Santa before going to bed to anxiously await his arrival.
Even though I no longer believed in Santa, I still believed there was a certain magic around Christmas. This magic brought people together and made everyone happy.
But that dream was about to be ruined for me on that Christmas Eve.
We decided to drive to the train station and then catch the train into the city. My parents and I travelled in one car and my younger sister travelled with my grandparents in another car. When we got to the car park we realised that a lot of people had the same idea as us and that we were going to have trouble finding a park. After 3 or 4 minutes dad managed to find a park but my grandpa was still looking.
We got out of the car and started walking towards the entrance to the station to wait for the others. I was almost there when I realised dad was walking across to the other side of the car park, for a while I was confused as to why he would be walking away from where we needed to go, and when I finally worked it out I was mortified. He had gone to stand in an empty park. I watched as he got out his phone to call my grandpa. I closed my eyes and wished to be somewhere, anywhere else, but even on Christmas Eve that sort of magic isn’t possible.
I was standing near the door, doing my best to look like I had no idea who my father was, when I heard a woman yelling and then, crap, my father reply.
I turned slowly, unsure if I even wanted to know what was going on, to see my dad standing in the empty park with a woman pulled up in her car yelling at him to get out of the way.
As they argued, more and more cars piled up on either side of them, unable to get through. Any awful thoughts I might have had about all of this were drowned out by the yelling of two uncompromising idiots and the blarring of what seemed like one hundred different horns. In the crowded car park the noise echoed and bounced crazily off the walls as everything seemed to close in around me.
Mum went over to try and get dad to calm down and just let the woman take the park but he wouldn’t have any of it. He kept yelling and guarding his precious park until my grandpa called to say he had found another one. I watched dad as he became even angrier, so much angrier than I had ever seen him before, he knew he had to back down. From the other side of the car park I watched, through my tears as my dad went crazy.
Mum came over to me then and we watched as dad left the car park and headed in the direction of home.
“I don’t think he’s going to come tonight” Mum said quietly, as if she was afraid that saying it too loudly would make the statement come true. She then turned around to see the woman dad had been arguing with standing right behind her.
“If anything happens to my car –“she began.
“He won’t” mum said softly, barley able to choke the words out. “I can understand why you think he would and I am so sorry for his appalling behaviour but he won’t do anything to your car.”
Just as mum seemed to be calming the woman down, dad reappeared behind the woman and screamed something at her that blew any chance of things being smoothed over. Finally it all ended with the woman screaming she was going to the police and dad storming off home.
We found Grace and my grandparents and went to catch a train. Mum was crying by the time we got to the station though she was trying to hide it. We got on and sat in a six seater and all I could think all the way into the city was that dad should have been in that empty seat next to mum. He should have been hugging her, not because she needed comforting but because it was Christmas. He should have been coming to hear me sing and then to go to the service to celebrate the coming of Christmas. He should have been preparing to help us hang up our Santa sacks, not fighting with women and sulking off home.
When we finally got to the park Hyatt, my conductor was mad at me for being late and then the whole night I continually got told off over and over again for not smiling enough and not looking happy enough and just generally looking depressed.
“It’s Christmas Claire” my conductor said, “time to be happy, get into the Christmas spirit. There’s no need to look so down, the world isn’t ending.”
If he only knew. My world was falling apart.
We continued the rest of our night as we had planned as if nothing had happened, nothing had changed. Everyone was trying to be bright and happy and ‘get into the Christmas spirit’ but no matter what we did the mood was still heavy and it seemed to get heavier still the brighter we tried to be, until one by one we stopped trying and just sat in silence and listened to the Christmas Eve service. I tried to pretend it didn’t hurt when we were reminded that Christmas was a time to be happy with your family, but I think it was written all over my face.
When we got home dad was already in bed. We hung up our Santa sacks and got milk and cookies out for Santa, but none of us really felt that excited buzz that we usually got every year as we prepared for Santa’s visit.
I went to bed without giving anyone the usual Christmas wishes before the big day; I was too tired to continue the bright and happy act I had been attempting, and failing miserably at, all night. I was all too ready to simply slip into bed and cry myself to sleep.