It would’ve seemed the decent thing to do, to spend Christmas with K’s somewhat more extended relatives, after their usual destination – one of K’s cousins – became populated with a new baby this year. I might have grumbled in private about it, but I’d have made them feel welcome as best I could. We even bought extra cheese for the cheeseboard (our task this year) when we heard of the possibility: now that’s charity. As it is, they seem to have sorted something out anyway.
There would never be any question of me or my parents hosting my cousins to the same extent: while I have no quarrel with them, we simply don’t get on as well, my own parents having pulled themselves into a different class and – unlike K’s parents – left them largely, contentedly behind. Their advanced age – some five to fifteen years on me – means that there have been no new babies: this year. But a divorce has left the possibility of a new girlfriend, for the eldest of them; so it has transpired. Christmas card lists change once again: names come; names go.
Meanwhile, on an entirely different extension of K’s family, a different set of cousins are (at least for now) separated, the whole event happening around their own new baby and around Christmas. Some years it feels like there’s more than the usual sadness around; some years, less. So you have to see the good and bad as part of this pattern that isn’t really a pattern; the world’s random fluctuations, the high and low points of the waves that sweep past us as they will.
Whatever’s celebrated at this time of year, as the world goes dark, it’s how we hold on as those waves do so; it’s how we find the railings and handholds to stay put on deck; it’s the acknowledgement of the continuation of the journey for another year: lashed to the mast with our fellow-travellers, lashed and on the sofa by mid-afternoon. Bon voyage, everyone, and happy Christmas. Happy whatever.