You can never be too old to enjoy Christmas. I went to bed early last night so I can be up early. And I am. It’s just not the festive feeling I was expecting. It all just feels numb and muted. Too much has happened lately that can’t easily be forgotten. God I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh and get away from this place.
But Edinburgh seems like an eternity away.
I get out of bed and head downstairs at seven in the morning.
As I pass Mei’s mum’s room I can hear her snoring. She sounds like a dog with a cold. Now I see where Mei gets it from. I always imagined she’d gotten that from her dad.
I flick on the kettle and turn on the TV in the living room with the volume so low I should put the subtitles on. Not sure if I woke Mei from her sleep when I crept out of bed. I hope I didn’t.
The Christmas tree looks fitting with the gifts around the bottom. All different colours of paper have been used and it looks like a broken mosaic.
At eight o’clock I hear footsteps from both bedrooms like they’re both on the same sleeping pattern. Soon they’ll be in the bathroom together.
I have no idea what to do for breakfast. It has to be something light. A slice of toast and a cup of tea perhaps.
Mei comes down before her mum. ‘Merry Christmas,’ she says with a smile. She kisses me on the cheek.
‘Brew?’ I ask.
She nods. ‘Decaf.’
‘Since when did you drink decaf?’
‘I just fancy it.’
‘Do we even have any decaf tea?’
She reaches into the cupboard above the fridge and pulls out a large box. ‘Mum picked them up for me yesterday.’
It’s nothing to bother about, but why?
‘Can you make me some toast?’
I nod and she goes into the living room.
My toast pops up and I put hers in. I’m still a bit confused about the decaf thing. Is it something her mum said she should have, or does she really just fancy it? Weird.
I eat my toast with strawberry jam. Mei has peanut butter on hers. Wish I’d thought of that.
Her mum comes down in her pyjamas. She’s having a lazy day today, as opposed to other days when she’s in her bedroom watching the laptop. Must be tiring.
For the most part of the morning I flick through the TV channels and watch whatever film is on. Mary Poppins is the winner. Mei has never seen it but today she will.
At eleven o’clock we decide to open the gifts. First off is her mum. I give her the blanket that I didn’t have time to wrap. She loves it. She loves it a little more than I thought she would. The smile shows every tooth in her mouth. I’m glad she likes it. Next is Mei. I start with her tablet, which she also loves, but it’s the driving lessons that she takes a particular liking to.
‘Thank you so much,’ she says and flings her arms around me.
‘Yeah. Another woman on the road.’
She gives me a look that says: cheeky bastard.
I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for my gift. I know I said I’m not too bothered, but something would be nice. I look around and there’s nothing that looks like it could be for me. Mei watches me.
I look back. ‘Anything for me?’
Her mum knows what we’re talking about and laughs. She’s in on the secret.
Mei says, ‘I’ll give it you later.’
At half twelve we head out to Blackpool. I don’t know why, but on Christmas day we seem to have our meal mid-afternoon for some reason. This is the only day of the year we do this. And then I’m alone making my way through a cheeseboard. I love cheese, even more so at Christmas because of the ones with added cranberries.
In the car heading out of Preston along Blackpool Road, there has been a light dusting of snow. There’s been more here than Preston and I’m a little jealous.
There are quite a few cars on the road, which surprises me. I can remember when I was a kid, how embarrassed I was to be outside on Christmas day. I’d always thought it was a time to stay in. Odd, I agree.
Twenty minutes after leaving Preston I enter Blackpool. My parents live on a street named Cherry Tree Crescent. It’s probably the nicest part of the town. Blackpool tower is OK in the summer when it’s busy and it’s difficult to notice the area around you. I came here once in winter when it was dead and the illuminations had been switched on the week before. What a dive it looked. I’m sure it looked lovely back in the day; now it looks seedy and tacky in a lot of places. Can’t believe my parents chose this place. I will give the council credit, though, the seafront is looking quite nice since they upgraded it.
I’ve heard plenty people tell me the best road in Blackpool is the road out. But that’s also the road in, so it kind of contradicts itself.
I stop outside my parents’ house. It’s a detached four bed affair with its own driveway and garage. I do like this house. They bought it when I moved out of our old house in Hutton.
Mum greets us at the door with hugs. She dare not go outside in this cold weather in case she falls on her arse, so she waits for us to fall on ours instead.
‘Merry Christmas,’ she says. She’s looking thinner than the last time I saw her. Her hair is grey and she’s wearing a red wool cardigan that almost buries her. She isn’t a tall lady by any stretch of the imagination.
My dad on the other hand is tall. He’s also grey and walks with a stick, but he held his posture over the years and so far he hasn’t developed the hunch that using a stick brings.
His glasses are resting on his nose as always. ‘Merry Christmas, love,’ he says to Mei and kisses her cheek.
‘All right, dad?’ I ask.
‘All right, son,’ he replies.
We go into the living room. They have a separate dining room and study on the ground floor of this house with the four bedrooms and large bathroom upstairs. The house is too big for just the two of them.
The smell of the meal turns my mouth into a drooling mess. My stomach rumbles. I can’t wait for this.
‘Your sister phoned this morning,’ my mum tells me. ‘I don’t know what time it is over there. It’ll be a scorcher though. She sends her love.’
‘Good,’ I say.
Before the meal we open our gifts. I give mum her white gold bracelet and cook book and I give dad his cap and scarf. They like them all. I knew they would. They never don’t like what I buy them. Unless it’s false and they donate them on Boxing Day. I get a couple of new Xbox games that I asked for ages ago. It’s all I ever ask for. Mei gets gift vouchers. I think she prefers that as once they bought her some clothes that she didn’t really like.
Mei says to me, ‘You want your present now?’
I don’t know what to say. Here? In front of my parents?
She reaches into her handbag and brings out a positive pregnancy test.