Christmas could be dangerous here. Your legs might have survived the crushing weight of the ‘it’s not even the big gift’ pillowcase, which, in true Chez Lynch style, would be filled with books, chocolate oranges, palettes of eyeshadow, vinyl records, t-shirts and placed on your bed by Papa Santa in the middle of the night while you were sleeping.
I remember all those perfectly chosen “fillers” because they were perfectly chosen and not fillers at all. The proof? Well I still have the LPs for one thing. But there was never a guarantee that you would live through the bird in a bird in a bird AKA the Combined Breakfast Roast Turkey, Chicken and Duck.
One of my worst memories was Christmas when the middle bird – that is, the chicken – was rotten and reeked of the house and the festivities with it.
Papa was emptied. So mad. And now I understand why: Christmas was so important to him. Was it because he was a working class guy from South London and wanted his seven children to have more than ever? Is it because this generation (born 1944) found it easier to show affection by giving gifts? Or because, after mom died in 1988, Christmas was the only time our family got together? Who knows. But he loved Christmas, he loved buying us presents, and he was extremely good at it – knowing that the best gifts don’t have to cost the Earth to mean someone to the world.
When I was 17, Dad bought me a used car for Christmas. It’s like he knows what help I would need to have a chance to pass my driving test – and what could be more useful than an old firecracker that costs a few hundred pounds? I was sulking in my room about something and he kept calling me by my name; calling me out. “WHY ?! WHAT DO YOU WANT ?!” I screamed on the stairs.
Eventually I dragged my hormonal self down and then I felt like a cow when I saw her beaming face… and a car. A real car. To me. Oh my God, it was beautiful. Chocolate brown with a funky 1970s croupier print on it. I loved it. And no, I didn’t name her, in case you were wondering.
I would be sitting my car to quietly read books for hours, and my best friend, Helen, would take me there to teach me how to drive. But we gave up when I turned out to be a real danger on the roads. After three months without me driving the car, dad took it back. I was very upset, but I had to make my peace with it.
The story of my automotive history is getting worse, in fact. I didn’t try driving again until I was 32 and, during a lesson, the driving school instructor told me: “Bibi, park. Bibi, you’ll never be able to drive. So I called his office on the way home to complain. Reading me beautifully, the woman on the phone said, “Smart people have a hard time learning. “
“Well, I a m bright enough, I replied.
New Woman magazine then commissioned me to write an article entitled “Can we teach Bibi to drive?” Two years and five tests later, I passed. I went to the magazine’s office to tell them – but everyone involved in the commission was either gone or died. I’m 55 now and haven’t driven since the day I passed away.
But I digress, the year after I had to return the car, Daddy’s Christmas present for me was a ski outfit for my very first ski trip. School holidays in Italy, I think. I believe the overalls were a punishment for the car’s lack of gratitude. The outfit was electric green and I was by far the most visible person on the slopes. Maybe even in this whole corner of Europe.
I ski like I drive: badly. And if you ski badly, you will surely want to wear equipment that doesn’t show off you in front of everyone. The whole resort witnessed this glowing pea snow plow, falling, crying and repeating the same as they walked away elegantly through the snow. Despite the humiliation, I kept the costume on for years. It was comfortable and cozy and I loved being the first in my group to have a padded wetsuit. And it made dad laugh to see me crash into the house in it.
The best Christmas present Dad gave me, however, was a beautiful ring. He gave it to me on Christmas after mom died. Once again, the beaming face was back as he silently handed me a small velvet box. Hope I made the right noises when I opened the box, because I never wore the ring in front of Dad and I hate that he never knew how much it meant to me. But it was too much.
I was only 22 years old and the gesture was quite overwhelming. Could I wear something so glamorous? Mom could have. Could people try to take it from me? I was afraid of it. Could I bear to see something so meaningful every day? I could not. Even now I can’t wear it. If I lost it, I would collapse. It connects me to mom and dad and it’s precious to me.
It was hard to buy for dad. I definitely inherited his “love to give” gene. Even giving someone a giant bar of their favorite chocolate brings me joy and envy. Do not believe me ? Once I almost got in trouble for giving a bottle of wine to a young man who delivered a mattress to me as a thank you.
But thinking about gifts for Dad was a nightmare. He didn’t really like reading, and the music he played was Soul and Motown that Mom loved. So it was too busy. Despite the anguish of knowing what to buy her, her Christmas presents from me always seemed a bit like “daddy’s gift.” But I didn’t have to worry. When I searched her things after her death in 2008, I found some of the gifts I had given her. Stupid gifts. A Spanish cookbook (with a “Hola!” Inscription on the inside of the cover) because he was moving to Spain. A funny photo of me in a wedding dress. A bottle of aftershave. He had kept them. Always. With photos and precious jewelry and other possessions he couldn’t let go. It didn’t matter if the gifts were cheap or silly, they were priceless for him because they came from me. With love.
It’s beautiful ? It is the real joy of giving. Merry Christmas.
Help spread the costs this Christmas with PayPal credit, offering 0% interest for four months on all purchases of £ 99 or more *. Subject to status. Baths and conditions of application. UK residents only.
Representative: 21.9% APR (variable)
Purchase interest rate: 21.9% pa (variable)
Deemed credit limit: £ 1,200
* Minimum payment due still applies to 0% offer balances. Any outstanding balance after the four month promotional period or any transaction below £ 99.00 will be charged interest at 21.9% pa (variable). In order to keep the offer at 0%, you must maintain monthly payments and stay within your credit limit. PayPal Credit is a trade name of PayPal (Europe) S.à rl et Cie, SCA Société en Commandite par Actions Registered office: 22-24 Boulevard Royal L-2449, Luxembourg RCS Luxembourg B 118 349.