It has been one of those years when nothing seemed to go to plan and everyone's life was a little out of control. New jobs for some, overseas trips for others, Health not so good for others - and work, work, work. Birthdays have come and gone and the year has been filled with celebrations and some sadness.

The months have just flown by and each of them have brought memories to store and not all of them good ones or easy to deal with.

Christmas this year will be different too - it seems we have family scattered all over the world and this will be the first time we will not have all been together. I am concerned as to how I will cope. I have coped with the departures and cherished the phone calls, read and re-read the emails and looked at the photographs again and again. These things have kept Cleo and Josh close and made it easier to deal with. They have been gone since May and each month has been difficult and strange.

And now here we are at Christmas time - shopping all done, the trees are decorated and the lights are lit. Cooking is all done and everything seems normal - but there is this feeling inside me that I am just going through the motions.

I know I have to let them go but why does it seem so hard at special times of the year - Tom has been great and so too has Zoe who misses her sister very much indeed.

Zoe is our Christmas Addict - she loves it all the tinkling bells, the tinsel, lights and trees and all the hustle and bustle of shopping late and wrapping parcels late into the night, but even she doesn't seem to have the same spark tonight. So, here I am quite alone sitting in the light radiated from the Christmas tree, listening to music and trying so hard to bring my soul some ease.

As I sit here I reflect on other Christmas seasons when the children were small and we would look for Santa, leave carrots for the reindeer and it would take what seemed forever for them to get to sleep. I thought of other Christmas mornings when the excitement was high and the noise very high. The mornings when breakfast was forgotten and all sorts of sweet things eaten.

I can recall Christmas carols being sung and reading to them each Christmas Eve that special story "T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse." I can still see their little faces, bright eyes and sleepy smiles as they fought so hard not to give in to sleep.

It was getting late and that special Christmas hush was falling around our home. Looking out of the window onto the garden I could see shadows cast by a beautiful moon.

It is lovely to have all these Christmas lights, but when everyone else is in bed it becomes quite a chore getting them turned off, and windows closed for the night.

I think I will stay for just a few minutes more and then face what I anticipate will be another sleepless night. I wonder where they are and what they are doing on the other side of the world - probably still shopping as our time zone is hours ahead of theirs. They still have Christmas Eve to enjoy in their little flat with its tiny Christmas tree. I wonder will it snow and will this be a white Christmas for them. I remind myself that tomorrow I shall have to put more energy into the celebration to make it wonderful for Tom and Zoe. I really must try to sleep.

We don't live on a busy road, but I hear a few cars travelling home probably loaded up with gifts which have been hidden away for this wonderful night. I'll leave the lights and get ready for bed, clean my teeth and then turn them off and get off to bed.

I hear what I think is another car - don't remember when it has been this busy for a while. Our neighbours have gone to visit their family interstate for the holiday season and yet I hear what I think is a car door. I am imagining things I am sure of that. I turn off the window lights and the outside lights which just leaves the subdued lights of the Christmas tree blinking in silent homage to this special night.

Now I am imagining things again - I am almost certain I hear laughter, or rather giggling. But what a ridiculous thought. I turn off the lights and climb the stairs and just as I start to climb into bed - the doorbell rings. Who on earth could this be at this time of night and whatever is wrong? Tom stirs and moves past me and Zoe appears at her door looking tousled from sleep.

I follow Tom down the stairs aware that Zoe is behind me - I call out to Tom to be careful. He does not open the door but calls out "Who is there?" No response just a shuffle - I am getting very scared. The doorbell rings again and Tom calls out again and this time there is a rather loud response.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS MUM AND DAD - let us in."!

My heart is racing as I move to the door for a moment having panicked thoughts.I look at Tom and Zoe and see the smiles on their faces.

"Open the Door Anna".

I open the door and my daughter rushes into my arms, then into her Dad's. I turn and look at Tom and Zoe and suddenly realize that they knew all along about my special Christmas gift and its late arrival.

Not much sleep this Christmas Eve - the kettle is on and tea is made - these two young people have been travelling for two days to be home for Christmas.

This will means that when sleep finally comes for me - there will be "visions of sugar plums dancing in my head". Such a special, thoughtful gift planned by a loving and caring family so that we could all be together for Christmas. Josh's family will get their surprise on Christmas night when his family gathers and they walk in there too. Indeed both families are blessed to have such thoughtful kids
.

Linda J. Vaughan

November 2007

The Pages of Avalon