Baby Melanie takes centre stage and re-lights the festive spirit in first-time dad Marcus, who finds there’s plenty of fun to be had playing Father Christmas
Looking at the smiles and Santa hats worn by the throng of happy shoppers, I could feel that warm, tingly sensation in my stomach that always crept up on me at this time of year. Actually, thinking about it, this could have just been indigestion stemming from too many sleepless nights…
Standing in the middle of Manchester, I was almost steamrollered by a pack of wild-eyed children as they tore past me and into the Disney Store. Captivated, my daughter Melanie craned her neck to get a better view. My wallet and I both began to quake with fear, with the realisation that it might only be a year or two until Melanie would be joining the stampede.
Despite my fleeting Christ-misgivings (mainly about crowded shopping centres), this year I felt particularly festive. The build-up to this Christmas had taken on a whole new focus: whereas for the past decade or more my main aims had been drinking, partying and floating around between various friends and relatives’ houses to do more of the same, I was now looking forward to turning the twinkling spotlight on my daughter.
At only nine months old, I supposed she wasn’t going to have a clue what this sudden bombardment of tinsel and merriment was all about, but she certainly seemed to be enjoying it. This year we were going to stay at my Dad’s for the few days around Christmas. The house was in pristine order, and the extravagantly large tree was twinkling ornately – that is, until Melanie noticed it.
Having been crawling for a couple of months now, she was pretty nippy on all fours and went off to ‘explore’ the poor tree with the subtlety of a lumberjack. Needless to say, the results involved a screaming baby and a great number of pine needles.
Perhaps it was my fatherly DNA, but I suddenly felt a sentimental longing for slippers, a gently burning log fire and falling asleep in front of Star Wars. I began to wonder, somewhat selfishly, whether this merry Christmas would rapidly turn into a humbug. Had we been too ambitious coming here for Christmas – should we just have stayed at home?
Whatever the answer, Melanie was soon having a great time again with her new ‘Chris-Moose’ toy (an early present from an overly-keen auntie) and was evidently loving the company of her extended family. So with the tree restored and all decorations swiftly placed out of exploring range, Christmas got well underway.
On Christmas morning, my wife Rachel, Melanie and I made the trip down to my mother’s house, where we would introduce Melanie to the yearly present-opening ceremony. With the dinner in the oven and Nan installed by the fire, everything was ready… except it was now time for Mel’s mid-morning nap.
By the time she had woken up the dinner was almost ready, so we abandoned the presents in favour of food. We blended up a mixture of the turkey and veg so that she would have her own ‘Christmas Mush’ (or Christ-mush!). It was delicious! I was tempted to do the same with mine.
And so, with dinner enjoyed by all, we could now finally get down to the important business of opening presents. Five minutes into this ritual, it quickly became apparent that little Mel was in danger of being engulfed by a tsunami of bears, bubble machines and wrapping paper (I don’t have to tell you which of these she preferred!). Helping her to open each present, my mum would squeal with delight and I began to wonder who the presents were really for!
In my pre-baby years, I have to admit to having grown rather cynical of what I regarded as this Christmas ‘consumer fest’. But since Melanie’s arrival, the Scrooge in me has begun to re-discover his Christmas cheer. My childhood memories of fun and excitement have come flooding back, and now I can share these experiences with my own little elf!
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