Coming Home

A short story to get you in the festive mood…

The chill of a December morning, packing up the car, full to the brim with cozy knits and sparkling presents.  Heading south on the dual carriageway after a pit stop for fuel, the car filled with petrol and a keep cup filled with a cinnamon spiced latte, I can sit back and relax.  ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ plays on the radio and I am taken back, I’m taken home.

The Donkey on Christmas Eve, pushing feverishly to the back, tearing off scarves and jackets, sweltered by the heat, shouting orders over the counter, the fire lit, the music playing, twinkling lights reflecting in happy eyes home for the holidays, the craic and the pints.  Shouting hellos, how’ve you beens, God where are you now?  What are you working at?  Did you finally leave him?  When’s the baby due?  Laughing, shouting and of course the singing.. ‘It was Christmas Eve babe…’  Voices hoarse from shouting, quenched by another round and sure we’ll have to have one for the road…

Sneaking into Midnight Mass, passed the Stewards on the door, acting as sober as you possibly can after four glasses of vino and a shot of sambuca or was it two?  Settling in and snuggling up to himself, it’s cold but it’s warm, if you know what I mean.  The cathedral decked out in it’s finery; greens, reds and golds and that single white candle, the symbol of peace and joy, of the Holy Night and then there’s that voice.  The voice of Christmas clear and true, ringing out from the balcony, the same voice each Christmas, the same chills up your spine and you’re glad you’re home, you’re glad you left the pub and made it down the road to mass.

Falling home the road and toasting the baby Jesus with a cup of tea, a ham sandwich and a chocolate kimberley.  Oh that ham, there really isn’t anything like it.  Soft fresh Pat the Baker, a thick slice of ham and a dollop of mustard, pure heaven. Laughing and joking, heading to bed to make sure Santa can call and lying tucked up and grateful.  God I love this time of year.

And then the day breaks far too soon, the excitement and bustle a little too loud but glorious nonetheless.  The fry is on, the toast is  burning, the tea is  made. I love the black pudding the most, I’d eat a plate of it.  The floor full of presents from every Tom Dick and Harry and I never remember what came from who, but we tear into it anyway.  

Then we’re on a mission, the togs are packed and the towels are ready, no wet suits in this house we’re made of hardy stuff, although a drop of the hard stuff might be needed to warm the bones after. We pile into the old family car and hit the road for Cuskinny.  No swans or ducks in for a dip this morning, frightened away by cackling, pale faced revellers raising money and catching colds in the name of a good cause.  The bravery is fast forgotten with the shock of the icy cold water and it’s a quick blink and you’ll miss it dip before legging it back up the strand and into clothes and the warm car, promising to think about the wet suit for next year. 

The kitchen is a hive when you finally emerge from the warm shower and the dinner’s on, we’re hunting for scraps and are ceremoniously slapped on the wrist and sent to wait at the table and oh is it worth the wait – Christmas Dinner – turkey, ham, all the trappings but its the spiced beef, the thinly sliced dark red meat, dancing softly on your tongue and tickling your taste buds that has you thanking God you’re from Cork and more importantly that your Grandfather was from West Cork and that this is a family tradition.

Then comes the food coma, the afternoon lost in a haze of bad TV, keeping the fire going, a tin of Roses inhaled and a round of Turkey sandwiches.  The family all around, the Baileys broken open, the disastrous game of Monopoly, the stories easily shared and the laughter, oh it’s the laughter that gets me most…

We meander through the Fota Road, we cross Belvelly Bridge, turn left and we wave at the Thinking Man.  It’s Christmas and we’re home.

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