As long time online friends will know, in 2004 when I had my own flat for the first time I bought my first Christmas tree for less than £2 in Tesco and had nothing to decorate it with. I was an undergraduate student at the time, and pretty much all my spare cash went on buying presents for my family (plus The Giraffe’s birthday is a week after Christmas) and the petrol visiting family and friends scattered across Edinburgh and Fife. And so my slight obsession with innocent smoothies led me to acquired 10 small knitted hats as they had started doing a campaign called Supergran (now called The Big Knit). This is where people knitted hats, sent them to Innocent Drinks HQ and in November they would adorn the small bottles of smoothies sold in Sainsbury’s supermarkets. For every hat, 50p went to Age Concern.
Over the years I collected many hats…so many that a couple of years ago I had to get a bigger tree…and have given people some of my hats to begin their own collections.
This year for the first time a decoration my friends bought for me in Disneyland Paris is going on the tree. I love the film Lilo and Stitch, and the famous line repeated by Lilo, and then by Stitch. “Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”
Christmas has become complicated since that first Christmas tree in 2004. It was the last Christmas with my family as I knew it. Now my blood family is very fragmented, and I’ve been lucky that others have let me become part of their Ohana.
However, at Christmas time people tend to stick with their blood family. It makes this time of year very lonely. I’m not mad about it, because to be honest I go a bit introverted at Christmas. I don’t want parties and noise. Christmas has become the anniversary of loss. Boxing Day in particular has some yucky memories. 2004 was the day my Dad informed me that doctors thought he may have cancer and that early in the new year he’d be going into hospital for investigative surgery (a surgery that went badly wrong when my Dad left the hospital early without the blessings of the surgeons). 2005 was the Boxing Day my grandfather went into hospital and never came out again. 2011 was the day we got the news that the police had tried to come round to our friends’ home on Christmas Day (they were away) to give the news that everyone fears when the police arrive unexpectedly at your door. The horror and guilt I felt realising that while we were eating turkey my childhood friend was lying in a morgue I don’t think is something that will ever fully leave me. 2012 was our belated Christmas Day with my older brothers, as we knew it would be our Gran’s last.
My Mum and I had a conversation about family as I was sorting out my knitted hats (because she’ll be visiting her best friend in Oklahoma for New Year, my Christmas tree is going up in her living room). It sounds really morbid, but we were talking about who we would want at weddings and funerals. Who I would want her to call if something ever happened to me unexpectedly.
Christmas is a time when we remember Ohana. For some of us, our Ohana is smaller, and maybe a little broken. There are people that are gone, but they’ve not been forgotten. It’s hard, but the lovely thing about Ohana is that you can add people to it who maybe weren’t born into your family, but choose to become part of it.