A two-hour window of one’s own

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree







Christmas has come early. My factory settings have been restored. I am ready to deck the halls, dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, kiss Santa under the mistletoe. Naked.

Why such celebration when all around are two-foot-deep puddles, online messages informing me that “it is now too late to order for Christmas delivery”, the sure knowledge that I am being a bad parent every time I hiss another “Santa is watching” reminder?

Yesterday, following a week that had seen us survive coughs, colds, a visit to Father Christmas, three nursery school parties, punishing work schedules, the odd sugar overdose right before bedtime, baby rashes and much projectile vomit, my family went on an outing without me. As they disappeared in the direction of The Barbican and a seasonal craft fair, I crawled onto our bed (and by “our” I mean the one that is slept in nightly – or at least for part of the night – by my chef, toddler boy, baby girl and me), fanned out the previous day’s newspapers like petals around me and lay my head down.

There was the rumble of traffic outside. The muted thump of somebody moving a piece of furniture in the flat above. There was the sensation of every cell in my being vibrating with pleasure (and no, this was not that sort of lie-down).

There was the realisation, as wonderful in its vindication as it was compelling in its horror, that this was the first moment I had been alone in my own home for more than nine-and-a-half months. Sure, I had been out to dinner, had been granted precious moments horizontal and solo – my chef always was better at mornings than I, more generous in general, in fact – but this was the first time I had been in my own bed without the threat of being rudely awoken. The front door was locked: I was not about to be jumped on, cried at, shouted for. Not about to be head-butted with love, dive bombed with kisses, pinched, scratched or bitten.

The first time for the best part of a year.

No wonder I had been going a bit mental.

I rearranged the white cushion, one of a pair bought on our honeymoon in Sardinia (a flash of deep emerald-green bathroom tiles, one perfect red hibiscus flower). I closed my eyes, thought for not one second about what my chef and children and sister-in-law and sister-in-law’s boyfriend were doing. I didn’t think at all. I simply lay there in a semi-comatose state, not wanting to miss any of this precious gift through falling asleep.

And that’s it.

There’s no epiphany. No twist in the tale. No funny punchline.

Fancy Christmas presents? Gold? Frankincense? Myrrh? You can keep them. Just take all responsibility away from me every once in a while. And then bring it all back again.

Because if you don’t…


Santa’s watching.