November without Paul
To say that life has been tough is an understatement....But, there are thousands of people out there who are equally struggling without their loved ones. So, I'm not one for woe is me. I know I need to get up, pick up the pieces and carry on regardless for the boys. Ha! the phrase "Carry On" takes me straight to Kenneth Williams who takes me straight to Hancock - Paul's favourite comedians. It is amazing how one's mind works; a smell, a phrase, a song, a photo - how they trigger memories good and bad and how I realise mine always lead to Paul and the memories we've made over 24 years.
This time of the year, most ads on TV and songs on the radio are of happy families spending the festive season together. I am acutely aware of how the boys are hurting. This November has been particularly difficult as it is the first time we are together without Paul. Last year was a wipeout and if I'm honest, a total blur. I usually have a photographic memory, but, I can't remember much.
What I do remember are the years before 2019. The run up to Christmas was more fun than Christmas Day itself. I would start playing Jim Reeves Christmas songs at the start of November much to Paul's annoyance. They would be on repeat as I started making endless lists; a list of Christmas cards; a list of presents; a list of menus for the Christmas week when Paul's parents would be staying with us; then a list for grocery shopping.
The one that Paul got involved with was making the surprise Advent calendar for the boys. Each year I would come up with a design which usually involved Paul cutting and sawing wood or offcuts of kitchen worktops and helping me glue and paint. Every 30th November will be the grand reveal when the boys would see the calendar. To see the look on their faces of sheer delight was priceless. For me the best part of that evening was the look and smile Paul and I shared. I miss how just a simple look held a thousand unspoken words. That one moment, that one look, that one smile could hold a conversation which only we understood. We were proud of each other, we were proud of ourselves and how seeing the boys so happy meant that we are doing a good job as parents; best of all, we were truly happy; we were complete.
I was determined to carry on the family tradition this year. I looked back at the photos from 2018 for inspiration. What we'd made was very big and so we had hung it on the staircase wall. I'd filled the bags with chocolate coins.
What I also did was make a mini advent calendar for Paul. This is the only year I'd thought about doing it and I am so glad I did. It had little envelopes with words to say how much he meant to me in 24 different ways. Some were silly, some were twee, some were mine and some were popular phrases, but, each one was true. Paul chose his favourite one and stuck it on our notice board where it still remains.
Building the advent calendar on my own was actually a good distraction and it got me out of bed, I had a deadline.
A couple of trips to B&Q to buy trellis, skirting boards and wood glue
Saw, nails, screws, hammer and electric drill from utility room
Old paint from garage
quite a few freezing hours in the garage sawing, painting and assembling the 'calendar'
eco-friendly brown cards from Hobbycraft
Youtube video to help me make boxes out of the brown cards
old craft paint and an old makeup brush to paint the numbers on the boxes
Quality street chocolates and snack bars
I finally managed to turn my vision into reality.
And the look on the boys' faces last night when they came home from school was enough to know that we can start looking forward to Christmas this year. Andrew said 'Mum, I wasn't really in the Christmas mood this year until I saw the advent calendar; now I'm all Christmassy'. Nuff said.