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We are almost there!  Workplaces are gearing up to wind down, nurseries and schools are hurtling towards the finish line and you cannot turn the radio on without Mariah Carey telling us what she wants for Christmas!  ? What a year it has been, for me it seems to have gone in the blink of an eye.  The passage of time, for so long, wasn’t marked by outings and trips and get togethers, but by breaking news and online deliveries – it been very samey and has just passed us by!

Although unable to have the month-long Christmas celebration that we have become used to in my household, we have managed to decorate the house beautifully, lots of fairly lights, a rather scrawny little tree (a deliberate choice in case it got pulled over and landed on toddler or dog). Lots of figurines of the musical persuasion and brightly coloured (verging on the garish) gifts under said scrawny tree.

We have also managed to uphold one tradition – which granted only began last year! – to meet Father Christmas in his fairy-like magical grotto!  Last year we took Paige, dressed her beautifully, put little sparkly clips in her hair, the hubby and me scrubbed up quite well too.  We entered the grotto, full of angelic song, icicles hanging from the ceiling, huge tree in the corner bedecked with giant baubles, the soft glow of the hearth casting warmth on Mr and Mrs Claus…well naturally my little darlin’ burst into tears, burrowed into my neck, messed up my hair in her attempt to hide within it and shot poor Father Christmas tearful daggers!  Of course, this was to be expected really, everything was in sharp technicolour and unfamiliar even within the confines and sanctuary of my arms. 

This year we had high hopes!  Paige is such a social little thing, always bestowing cuddles and smiles and beaming and waving at all in sundry.  We had waited on bated breath to see if the grotto would actually be open and if there could be a socially distanced, very sanitised Christmas experience ending with the obligatory family photo.  To our delight lockdown has been lifted and we were assured of our safety and magical experience.  Same scenario: dressed for the occasion, hair and makeup done, Christmassy outfits donned, we even managed to nab a parent and child parking space (something I always consider a personal triumph!).  The grotto was beautiful, the ‘entrance hall’ where we were to wait one family per room was decked out in a spectacular way – penguins on icebergs covered in glitter, a walrus with sparkly tusks, snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, hidden elves around the room to pass the time etc.  We were ushered in a homely kitchen where we met Mrs Claus and made some reindeer feed.  Then began the burrowing into my neck!  No tears, but quite clearly out of her comfort zone and not liking the attention from the elves who were happily singing at her – Paige pulled her jacket up over her head in a ‘if-I-can’t-see-them-they-can’t-see-me’ move.

Next, “is there a Paige here?”  “oh yes that’s us, come on darlin’, let’s go and meet Father Christmas!” – the arms shot up in the ‘carry me, I won’t walk in voluntarily’ stance, cue ‘ahhhhhs’ from the other waiting families.   We were led to a bench, where Santa was safely ensconced answering Xmas letters behind his desk set 2 meters from our location.  This time Paige climbed down from the bench, ran around the side, and hid behind my back!  Being now 30 weeks pregnant and growing by the day I couldn’t easily twist round and scoop her up.  She even crouched down, put her finger to her lips in a shush gesture and tried to make a break for the exit curtain, I think she would have made it if Father Christmas hasn’t said, in a somewhat Pennywise tone I have to say “I can see you!” 

We did of course take the eagerly awaited family photo with an equally traumatised child peeking out from my arms!  We had to laugh (though I did feel a bit guilty if I’m honest!).  And how confusing we make it for our children: stranger danger, oh go sit on that strange man’s lap!  (or in this case, have a lovely conversation from 2 meters away).  This time old tradition will no doubt continue the world over, im sure Paige will appreciate it next year with a new brother in the mix!

Needless to say, Paige was very pleased once the ordeal was over, so that’s taken care of for another year, I can’t wait to show my baby these photos in years to come! 

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