Of course, this week’s blog has got to have a Christmas theme; it’s about two significant Christmases; our first one with Russell and our first one without him. Both very different, both letting us know that life had turned a corner and would never be the same again.
That first Christmas with Russell, in 1985 was magical; Christmas needs young children to make it really special. Russell was almost 8 months old; he had just learned to stand up and was busy pulling himself around the room using all the furniture as a support. Another landmark, everything within two feet of the floor had to be removed just in case. Russell’s main present was a Thomas the Tank engine push-along toy. He was a bit too young to push it on his own but he enjoyed sitting on it and being pushed. We had as much fun as he did opening all the presents, although I don’t think he had a clue what was going on.
The following year he did understand more, and knew that his main present, a baby brother or sister would not arrive until a couple of weeks after Christmas Day. That year he had two Christmases, one on 25th December and one on 15th January. In the following few years he enjoyed helping us buy presents and wrap them up, and once he started school there were all the Christmas concerts and plays to enjoy.
Christmas 2012 was Russell’s last Christmas, and we are still so sad that it wasn’t the best. In the space of three months he had lost both his grandmothers. Although we still had a house full of family, it just wasn’t the same and we all agreed that the next year we would get away to somewhere warm and sunny. Russell thought this was a great idea as he was getting tired of turkey and Christmas pudding, and now with no Grannies around there was nothing to keep us at home. So, we were all looking forward to a much better time in 2013. Little did we know what lay in store for us.
Christmas 2013 – the first Christmas without Russell, we could not spend it at home; partly because Russell had wanted to go on holiday and partly because we had to get away. We didn’t care where we went as long as it was somewhere that didn’t celebrate Christmas!
In the end we chose to go to Marrakech and booked a week in a traditional Moroccan riad. No presents, no Christmas trees, no turkey, but most significantly, no Russell. On Christmas Eve the staff at the riad organised a traditional Moroccan feast with a band and belly dancing, eaten outside under the stars. On Christmas Day we travelled high into the Atlas Mountains; the weather was perfect – blue skies and sunshine. Christmas lunch was another traditional Moroccan meal eaten in the open air on the roof terrace of a local restaurant. We had a special toast to Russell up there in the mountains thinking how much he would have enjoyed this very unchristmassy Christmas.
When we got back to the riad in the evening (and were back within a mobile phone signal area) Sarajane received a text from Louise with a picture of Russell’s tree adorned with decorations, flowers and a mince pie (always Russell’s favourite Christmas food). Thank you to everyone for looking after him for us on Christmas Day – that means so much.
We spent our last day of the holiday at the seaside, a small town called Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. Sarajane did something she had wanted to do for years – horse riding on the beach. I settled for a camel – not the most comfortable ride, but an hour in which there was time to just watch the waves and think, about Russell, about the future and how we could celebrate his too-short life.
Looking back, going far away was the best thing we could have done; spending Christmas at home without Russell would have been just too difficult. In fact, I can’t think of a good reason for being at home at Christmas when there are so many amazing places, all with their own traditions and cultures to experience. We know, that wherever we go, Russell will be there with us, unwrapping a Thomas the Tank Engine toy, looking forward to Granny’s mince pies, or having a beer before watching Dr Who and playing that inevitable game of Trivial Pursuit.
Happy Christmas Russell, our memories of you will LIVE FOREVER x
AS OF THIS MORNING 19TH DECEMBER, WE HAVE RAISED OVER £1000 FOR SAVE THE CHILDREN IN MEMORY OF RUSSELL. SO THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR GOOD WISHES AND GENEROSITY. WE WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS XX