It has been a wonderful Christmas - perhaps my favourite as an adult, with a family of my own. For the first time Jellybean understood about the story of Christmas, about giving and receiving presents, about leaving a mince pie out for Santa, and was very excited, and Midget Gem copied all the hyperactivity and excitement of his big brother.
This was our first Christmas in our own family home, all four of us together, opening stockings and presents together in front of a roaring fire beside our own tree.
It reminded me of Christmas growing up, of my own family, and of the good and happy, as well as sometimes difficult and sad, times we had together.
I write this as the clock ticks towards new year's eve, which would have been my paternal Grandmother's birthday. I'm not sure how old she would have been - I have never been very good at ages - but I know that I last saw her when I was carrying Jellybean in my big fat belly, and she lay in a bed in a hospice, the first and only time she met my husband.
I know that she would have loved my sons - she had four boys of her own - and she would have adored their adventures, misadventures and cheeky little smiles. She would have been utterly in love with them, enjoyed preparing for their visits as she did ours when we were small, and would have given them as many magical and wonderful memories as she gave me.
Mama - Grandmama - as we called her was a glorious grandmother. She was beautiful, tall, elegant, well spoken (having had elocution in her youth, which entirely removed her Nottingham accent, which her brothers kept, very broadly, which always amused me) and the kindest, most decent, gentle, loving woman on earth.
She had a childlike, innocent nature teamed with a surprisingly cheeky sense of humour, and she would pretend she couldn't hear when her four sons were together and got a little rowdy and the air began to hum with roaring laughter, tinted with a hint of blue.
I have memories of hundreds of days floating around her lovingly tendered garden, wearing a vintage dress of hers from the 70s with bright blue floral print, eating mint leaves and collecting posies, before heading back to her kitchen to help her bake and prepare trifles. I can hear her singing along to Songs of Praise and quietly teaching us the importance of love and forgiveness and generosity.
I never, not once, heard her raise her voice in 25 years, nor saw her lose her temper, her cool or her serenity. The effect of her temperament was to sooth those of everyone around her, and though we all felt anger and bitterness at her long battle with cancer she never seemed to feel the same.
Losing her was a huge blow, and I talk to my children a lot about her, and hope that some of her gentility rubbed off on me, so that I can teach my children the important lessons she taught me about love and kindness, as well as the motherly, maternal skills she filled our childhood with.
For the last birthday I celebrated before I lost her she gave me a book - 'To a very special granddaughter' - one that you can find in many card and gift shops. There was a page marked, which remains so, which showed that she hadn't bought the book on a whim as an extra, trite gift, but had read some passages and wanted to say something to me, and which she felt this page in the book could do.
"Here she comes, luminous with pride, on her feet
and moving. She stops, lurches, collapses neatly.
Beams. Reorganises. Up again. Come on, now -
you can do it! And she does - standing, rocking
slightly, clutching at your knees.
I really think that deserves a jelly bean. And a kiss."
There are many sentiments and poems, pieces of gentle prose, in the book and I know that she would, and did, apply each to our lives. This one, though, she picked out, marked and wanted me to read. I know that she was proud of who I was, of my husband, our baby, our new lives together, and that she would be proud now, and would love my children as much as she loved my brother and I, and our cousins. I had been having a hard few years leading up to meeting my husband, and though we never discussed these difficulties in depth I know that she was watching, caring and supporting me, and that she was pleased I had come through them and found happiness - as she had always known I would.
I miss you, Mama, I hope that you're smiling down on us. I wish you were here to celebrate your birthday with us all. I will toast you tomorrow with a glass of chilled elderflower cordial and some chocolate and orange trifle. I love you.