Every morning in December, Monkey always plays her favourite Christmas album, clears away the pots and pans from the night before, and wakes us up. Because December is, in essence, the Festival of Monkey. Born on Boxing Day, she enjoys a full month of celebration. This year for her birthday, she will ride her first horse (and will also receive a Tonner Draco-Malfoy-at-the-Yule-Ball doll, but that will pale, I imagine, in comparison to an actual pawing, snorting, pooing, hairy thing). She has been studying her Saddle Club Guide like a fiend.
Around here, the month always begins in the same way: with the unpacking of the tree. (Monkey: “Il albero! L’arbre!“) Gremlin is indifferent to the tree – a mature cat, she’s indifferent to pretty much everything other than food and water dragons – but Teddywinkle, who is only three, was beside himself. I mean, how often do you get an actual TREE in the living room? So he skulked about the base and, thinking we couldn’t see him, crept in …
… branches were crashing to the floor as he clambered up …
… and then he found himself mostly stuck, which is when he began to mew.
Alex and I began arguing over the placement of the baubles (he puts them up in clumps; I prefer a more elegant dispersal) as Teddy chased Gremlin all over the house. We then called a truce of sorts: I was put in charge of the baubles, Alex handled the tinsel. This mostly worked. The first baubles I put up were the Swarovski crystals. Years ago, I bought a box during the sales and threaded them up; I love the way they catch the light.
Everything on our tree has a history. This is our little Peruvian retablo, purchased from the Oxfam Fair Trade shop. Monkey always wonders at the smallness of the ceramic figures.
And this is Alex’s favourite bauble, a big, brilliantly red pagan ball of faux raspberries and nectarines. (An appalling shot, but we need a new camera.) It always reminds me of Dickens.
“‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’
“Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust …”
This is Monkey’s favourite bauble – a little porcelain Villeroy & Boch owl – and an ambient, hand-painted star with a minuscule and very pretty carving of the nativity on the other side.
Monkey is also partial to her little porcelain girl and teddy …
… while I have always loved the little porcelain boy and his wooden toy train.
We all love the red velvet heart from India …
… and the lovely mercury glass acorn (from the now-defunct Masai Mama). The lushly bearded Villeroy & Boch porcelain soldier has always looked a little lost.
There are dozens of others, too many for now. On the wall, one of the Reverend Howard Finster‘s transgender angels, a relic of Alex’s childhood …
… and his/her immortal message. Bless.
Our stockings, stuffed with gewgaws, liquorice, and Natural Confectionery sweets …
… and these are our muffin cases, decorated with felt-tip pens some years ago and resurrected every Christmas with blu-tack. This is Alex’s wonderful gingerbread man.
I’m making gingerbread man bunting, but the pace is slow as I’m working until Christmas Eve arranging advance copies of MOUTH for my site shop in late January (congratulations to the man who wrote the foreword – the brilliant, disciplined, and irrepressibly generous Jordan Belfort – for his wild success with The Wolf of Wall Street; he deserves it all.)
And this is Monkey’s blue angel.
Her dear little Nativity scene …
… and Alex’s excellent Grinch and uncharacteristically sardonic Madonna.
My lighthouse here …
… and Alex’s SPECTACULAR Christmas Walrus TM.
(Here is the Original Walrus, patiently observing Monkey’s Fisher-Price Nativity scene.)
Which brings us to the Crowning Moment: a very grumpy Monkey – hoisted up on Daddy’s shoulders – putting up the star. (There had been a disagreement about the general level of chaos, which had become unmanageable – sheet music all over the sofa, apple cores on the table, socks behind the cushions, a litter of pencils on the floor, and so on).
Be deeply loved this Christmas and if you can’t be loved, love randomly and with great grace.
And to all those who are mourning a beloved this Christmas, an embrace x
Antonella, Alex & the Monkey