Is it an age thing? Or does everyone hate shopping at this time of year? I get hot, sweaty and really annoyed at people who bang about and whack me with their heavy shopping bags. They ignore all politeness and manners; they shove, push and just rudely batter each other in the quest to get some shitty stuff at Christmas.
The shite Christmas songs wail annoyingly over every stores loudspeaker, there are kids running wildly or whingeing endlessly as I try to figure out what to buy for my husband.
I am starting to hate Christmas. That’s a bad sign, I am old and grumpy.
One of my favourite Christmas’s was in 1989. Ashley was three years old and at that age where she so believed in Santa and we owned a pub in Glasgow’s East End.
The pub was all dressed up with decorations and a big tree set in the middle of the bar. Ashley had made her own wee decorations, a Santa made of cotton wool and a body of red cardboard. It stood pride of place at the top of the tree.
We had planned a big Christmas dinner in the flat as the pub closed on a Sunday between 2pm and 6.30pm back in those days. It was the licensing laws and Christmas day fell on a Sunday that year.
We had my cousin Sammy, his girlfriend Pauline, husband’s cousin Stevie, our mate Andy, the barman Wullie, his girlfriend Michelle and their son Robert all coming for lunch.
I hade never cooked for so many people and I was so excited.
Andy decided he didn’t want turkey and requested lasagne, Ashley was a vegetarian and she was getting a special meal of vegetables in filo pastry and I was getting nervous!
My cousin Sammy had set the table and kept Ashley occupied, she was so happy playing with all her toys that she got that morning. Being three was great for her, all the people in the bar adored her and with a big family she got so much presents it’s was over whelming to be honest. I have a video of her opening her presents that morning and she burst into tears! There was just so much stuff.
She was exhausted opening gifts; she was deluged with Playmobil toys which were her favourites. She also got a dolls house and all the little people to go with it and just was just some of the gifts. It seemed a toy shop had been emptied and transferred its stock to our living room floor.
The day went great though, Sammy managed to help run the bar and clear my living room of furniture, whilst checking on the dinner with me. Sammy and I had been raised together; he was more like a younger brother than a cousin.
His parents were dead, his father killed himself under a train in 1980 and his mother killed herself with pills in 1983, and my mum had been murdered in 1982.
Sammy and I had been through such crap in our young lives, and we huddled together like a wee family. He had lived with me since he was 18 years old and before that we had lived together as kids. I loved him and he was so good with Ashley, he adored her and she truly loved her Uncle Sammy.
He would pick her up and she would wrap her legs around him and cuddle into him tight till she fell asleep on his shoulder. Sammy would simply carry her around and refuse to put her in her cot, he loved holding her. Sometimes he would just wrap a blanket around her body and keep her with him till he finally had to get her into bed.
That Christmas was great, we ordered some really fancy Champagne and set the table perfectly. All the guests arrived and the whole dinner went great, I was exhausted and we knew we had to open the pub back up at 6.30pm that night.
Everyone had a great time and although the house looked trashed we all agreed it was a great time.
Sammy cleared up for me and got Ashley to bed as husband and I went down to open up the bar again for the late shift. The place was busy as hell and I wanted to go upstairs and play with my daughter but work came first as always.
I knew Sammy would be good with her, they would watch a video, she would get her bath and he would have her tucked up for us coming up after 11pm shutting time.
We came up after midnight as it was hard getting rid of the late night revellers. Sammy was lying in bed with Ashley, both of them fast asleep; all her toys were spread out on the carpet. The dolls house was laid out perfectly, the mummy and daddy standing beside the two wee children, the furniture all neatly arranged.
I looked at Sammy asleep and smiled; he had obviously created his own wee perfect family in the dolls house. A family he never managed to create or enjoy in real life.
Sammy is no longer with us.
I had lost touch with him after we left the bar in 1994. We never spoke for years and the next time I saw him was in a coffin.
He had started taking heroin in 1992 and eventually took some contaminated heroin the summer of 2000, he died days later.
I hated his heroin habit but assumed he would live long enough to get clean.
I miss him, but still can see his happy face on that video; I watch him as he is carrying Ashley on his hip and dancing her around the room as she squeals with happiness.
“Sammy, I am going to dance like this with you when we get married” Ashley can be heard shouting over the music.
“You can’t marry me, I am your uncle and you are a Princess” he laughs back.
“But I love you Sammy” she pouts.
“I love you too, now sing for me” he laughs as he swings her round and her blonde hair flies behind her, her legs firmly on his hips and his arms holding her tight.
I freeze the video at that moment and stare at his face. It looks sad, and I never noticed that before, he was always sad somewhere inside.
At least he was loved. I miss him and that will always be my favourite Christmas._