One way of measuring growing up and the years as they go has always been my attitude towards Christmas. Like every child, when I was still a child, I always looked forward to the December holidays – first, because they were the only holidays one spent a lot of time at home (no I didn’t hate school) and, secondly, because of the festivities that came with Christmas and New Year. I cannot recall my first encounter with Christmas, but what I do have is the memory of what happened at every Christmas at home.
I remember the tree and the wrapped-presents under it. Of course, I remember the first time, my mom brought me a book. That was the year I was doing grade 2 and I had asked her to accompany me to the library to make a library card. I remember, too, the new clothes we wore on Christmas and the food that I always helped my mom cook every Christmas morning.
In the afternoon, my father’s younger brother, before he passed on, would visit and we would sit around the table and eat and then open our present. My father and his brother would sit until late at night drinking their whisky and tapping their feet to the sound of jazz. They never fought or raised their voices. Christmas seemed to be a time of plenty. There was food, money, time, companionship and everything that was not there during the long year.
Why was Christmas not every day? Why, why, why… why don’t good thing last forever?
“Christmas only comes once my child,” that’s what my mother used to tell me whenever I wanted more than she could give. It was a good analogy that didn’t need one to be a smart ass to understand what she meant, but I can’t really say I understood.
And the Christmas of 2008 came. I was 14. I remember this Christmas for three reasons. Firstly, this is the Christmas a boy, Aphiwe, said the magic words to me. I don’t know if it’s the alcohol we had drank on the sly, under our parents’ noses, that had given him the courage to tell me that he loves me and kiss me and then turn around and run away, leaving me dizzied by the realisation that what I had felt for him was love. Or what could it have been? This strange sensation that I felt whenever he was in close proximity; these butterflies camping in my stomach… is that what they meant? Could the sensation be summed up in three little words? He had summed it up for me and left when the summer holidays came to an end.
Secondly, it’s the last Christmas we spent with my father’s brother. He and my father had spent the day like they usually spent other Christmases – whisky and jazz. But that night, for reason unbeknown to me, they had raised their voices and quarrelled and he stood up and staggered towards his car drove away leaving a cloud of dust behind him. I don’t think he saw me raise my hand to wave goodbye. He was drunk and got into an accident.
I remember looking forward to Christmas and not looking forward to it at the same time… because Aphiwe had promised he’ll come back again during the summer holidays… because my father’s brother was not going to be there.
Why don’t things stay the same forever? Why, why, why… why does the wind of change touch everywhere without asking us if we want the change or nor?
It was only later that I realised that change meant growing up. I think that realisation came to me last year, when my mother and I spent the Christmas together and my father was not there. This year I’m alone. Noxy and new boyfriend, Marko, have gone to Pretoria to spend the day with his parents. I can’t say I’m not tempted to call my mom, but time alone has given me time to think about my life and the course it has taken and I can only agree that ‘change is the only constant.’ Things don’t stay the same forever, but memories do…