Let me take the time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. What a wonderful holiday it is! I love Christmas, but every year in the lead up, I have my fair share of scrooge moments. The pressure of expectation is so high and it can be overwhelming. It’s all a flurry beforehand, but then the day comes and I get a sudden rush of peace and joy. It is my belief that this, the spirit of Christmas, is a grace flowing directly from the Infant Jesus.
In recent years, that beauty, peace, joy and simplicity that only a baby can bring to us has captivated my Christmas prayer and meditation. Being away from home again this year, meant that the Christ-child has also been a wonderful source of comfort and support for me over the Holiday.
Fortunately, despite the title of this post, I didn’t have to spend Christmas proper completely on my own. I was able to make the trip back up the Yorkshire for a couple of days to stay with my English family; the Inglehearn’s. Once again, they opened their doors to me with fantastic generosity. They’ve really created a home away from home for me since I’ve been in England and I can’t thank them enough!
One of the funnest things about the holiday was my transportation. Seeing as it was my 25th birthday on Christmas Eve, I did the one thing that I couldn’t do prior to becoming a quarter century old; namely, rent a car! (Technically, I could have actually rented a car before, but not without exorbitant additional insurance rates). In any event, it was one of two firsts that I experienced over the holiday. It was also the first time I had driven in England and thus the wrong side of the road. I’m a survivor.
Driving on the left side of the road was a little unnerving at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Since I do ride my bike on the roads quite often, I was familiar with the feeling. However, it is different in a car. For one thing, driving from the right side of the car makes you feel like you have a giant tumor on the left side of your body, which you constantly have to keep out of people’s way. This giant tumor also had a way of making me drift well over to the left side of the lane which I inhabited.
I also learned, or rather was reminded, that my left hand is pretty useless. Shifting gears was slightly challenging for the hand that usually only moves to pick my nose or scratch my…yea, anyway. But after 500+ miles, I did eventually get the hang of it and really quite enjoyed driving again.
The best part of it all was that I managed a nice free upgrade – I called it the Birthday upgrade – and was driving around in an Audi. Far cooler that a little Ford Geo, or similar economy car, that I was expecting. Needless to say, I was a little bummed having to return it. Back to the ol’ bicycle for me!
So, on my Birthday, I drove up to Yorkshire, with a few accidental detours (the accents on the English road signs were hard to understand) and arrived late afternoon. I was greeted with love and cheer, and proceeded to go upstairs and get on my laptop – I know so rude – so that I could skype home and get some Birthday affirmation from across the great blue beyond. The family – minus Cecilia, who was flying home from Italy – lined up on the screen and sang me a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday…I know, I know, a beautiful rendition of that song never ACTUALLY occurs, but the sentiment was beautiful as always.
After all the Birthday love that evening, including the Inglehearn’s traditional and delicious Chocolate Malteser cake, it was time to get ready for the real celebration! I, thus, went to a lovely midnight mass at the local parish and this is when I was graced with the true peace and joy of Christmas once again. Then, as I love to do, I unabashedly sang along to the recessional hymn, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”, and the peace diminished momentarily for everyone else…but I loved it!
Then I stayed up really late after Midnight Mass because it was still technically my Birthday back home and I didn’t want to miss any of it. Alas, another benefit of being here, my Birthday and Christmas are 29 hours long! New Years might be rough…
Christmas Day, Allison, my English Mum, had to work – God bless her soul – and so the family didn’t do much in the way of wild Christmas celebrations. So, I drove my nice ride over to another nearby cousin’s house and was hosted to a fantastic meal by the lovely Anne Mary, and her ever enjoyable husband Garry. The lamb, the ham, the turkey, the potatoes, the everything was delectable and I can honestly say it was the best meal I’ve had since I arrived this year! I even had room for a big piece of black forest gateau cake…oh the indulgence of me.
Once again, I got to skype with home that evening (morning at home) and wish all a very Merry Christmas! It is always fun to witness the impressive fiasco that is gift-giving time in the O’Reilly household.
I, unfortunately, had to leave the Inglehearn’s early on the 26th – known as Boxing Day in the UK – to head back down South for a game. Sadly, I made the 5+ hour drive, only to arrive to a cancelled game. Thankfully, the Christmas spirit gave me enough joy to get through that disappointment.
The 26th is also my sister Grace’s Birthday! While my Birthday is pleasantly eclipsed by the build up to Christmas, hers is overshadowed by the Christmas hangover. Everyone is perfectly content to wish her a Happy Birthday and wish her the best, just as long as they don’t have to get up off the couch. She never complains though, and takes the well wishes with genuine excitement and cheerfulness, just as long as she doesn’t have to get up off the couch. I love you Grace 😉 Happy 21st!
That, my friends, is the story of my 2013 Christmas spent Far From Home, Alone. Not literally, thanks to the generosity of the Inglehearns, but it makes for a good title. If I had made it home for Christmas, the title wouldn’t have been much different, as I would have been Far From Home Alone.
In the meantime, I did play another game, and no, nothing has changed, I’m still a loser. We lost 2-0 to a team called Mangotsfield. On a positive note, at least we are not called Mangotsfield.
All the best to you all as you end this year and begin another. Here’s to you – hiccup – keep going head first into 2014!
May the Infant Jesus, give you peace and joy all the year long.