Friday, 30 December 2011

Packing up

And then, almost before we knew it, there was nothing left but a half-full tub of pistachio nuts and the unclaimed contents of a Christmas cracker.

The empty bottles had been rinsed and put out for recycling, the left-over cheeses packed into a cool-bag for the journey home, the still gift-wrapped panettone was stowed in a box alongside a half-full pack of lentils, and an unused Christmas pudding generously offered up to the ones most likely to eat it.

The dishwasher was emptied for the very last time, and the neat white crockery lined up once again on the kitchen shelves. One of us unplugged the twinkling white lights, while someone else crammed the carefully ironed tablecloth and napkins back into a bag, making a safe nest for the still-new candlesticks and their half-burnt candles.

As I gave the lounge one last tidy-round, plumped up the cushions on the striped grey and white armchairs, straightened the back of the cosy sofa, I realised just how quickly we'd each claimed our own seat, and stuck to it for the whole week. I thought about how many times we'd sat there and chinked together our glasses of sherry, how we'd sipped at gaudy yellow snowballs, and relished our fruit-filled gin and tonics. I remembered how we'd tried to find new words to describe the deep red wines and smooth dark chocolates, and how we'd sat there watching our favourite Christmas films; sobbing for tiny Tim Cratchit in the Muppets' Christmas Carol, smiling at the recovery of Zuzu's petals in It's a Wonderful Life.

Upstairs, the wardrobes and chests were clear, and the clean white bed-linen looked as good as new. Our individual shampoos and gels were removed from their corners of the shower, our toothbrushes and wash-bags packed away for another trip. The huge white bath remained unused, but the enormous towel rail and industrial strength radiator continued to pump out enough heat to warm a castle.

Back in the kitchen, the dining table was wiped clean, and the chairs arranged neatly around it. There was no sign now of the shared meals, or the cups of tea we'd learned to make, just how we each liked it - sweet and milky for some, strong and dark for others. Who would have known that we'd sit here for hours, playing at being despotic dictators in a board game, or scrabbling for letter tiles to form interlocking words? Who could have foreseen the unexpected pleasure, or predicted the level of ferocious competitiveness, that came with learning to play Canasta?

The last of the boxes and bags was carried out to the car, then we pulled the door closed tight behind us and stowed the key away in its wall-safe. We tried to leave it just as we'd found it, and on the surface, you'd never know we'd been there. But, as I started the car, then turned to take one last look, I felt pretty sure that when the next guests arrived, they might still catch the faint echo of an often-told joke and a fading ripple of laughter.


41 comments:

Philip said...

That was very, very, nicely done.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

One lovely memory neatly filed away for future examination. Beautiful.

Mollie said...

Oh, I liked this very much. I wanted to be a part of it all and happily, it seemed as if I was for a lovely short time.

Nessa Roo said...

Wonderful, but...around here, we don't sip on yellow snowballs. We try to avoid yellow snow altogether!

Sydneylk said...

Very nicely told piece. Crisp and to the point.
Like Nessa Roo, I found the yellow snowball bit a little disconcerting though.

MerCyn said...

Thanks for sharing the warm, comfortable week away from everyday life. The memories will last forever for everyone lucky enough to have been there.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Sharon, this is beautiful. You write in prose both poignant and telling. A great read! Happy New Year!

savannah said...

a perfect telling of a wonderful time! thank you, sugar! xoxoxox

Matt Inwood said...

How very delicately done; slightly wistful and a fondness for all shared things from the week so very obvious. A simply little pleasure to read.

Shea Goff said...

Lovely.

iamsuperrein said...

good stuff!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Very nicely done.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Very good; you drew me in and made me feel at home, before leaving that shiver at the end that gives this it's own special feel!

Arwa said...

Welcome back! very beautiful.
happy new year 2012!

Starlight said...

Beautiful, simply beautiful.

Ayozie said...

Really beautiful, and beautifully told.

Dicky said...

Oh I love a snowball. Only just rediscoverd them after an absence of many years. Nice post Sharon, Ive always liked the idea of buildings holding some of the spirit from the people who have visited them.

All the best of luck to you and Philip in 2012.

Bill Dameron said...

I think we can all see our lives played out in your Christmas memories. Time spent with family and friends is a universally shared emotion of joy and remembrance.

materfamilias said...

Oh, lovely! Hadn't thought of snowballs for a zillion years -- I remember visiting my English rellies in the 60s, my aunt making me one, me at 14 quite chuffed at that adult treatment. . .

Eryl said...

Christmas capture! This was a joy to read, Sharon. Best of the best for you and Philip in 2012, X

Liz said...

Oh, the pictures I see when I read your posts. Was just over visiting Philip and filled in the blanks. Glad you both had a nice little holiday. All the best for 2012, Sharon.

steven said...

beautifully written sharon!!! a peaceful new year!!! steven

DPR said...

I take it there was an alternative washing facility to the unused bath? Sounds like you had a lovely time. Please remember the ancient bushmans survival tip: Never eat yellow snow.

Prudence Puddleduck said...

Happy New Year and continue your passion...I look forward to each post...Happy to have found your blog..faraway fan..♥Debi in Canada

ND Mitchell said...

Sounds like a great holiday. Days merging into each other and time disappearing...Happy New Year!

Hannah Stephenson said...

That's why breaks are so necessary---the pause that allows us to relax and reconnect (with ourselves and eachother, right?).

Happy new year!

Sandra said...

You capture so well the moments of joy, their passing, and what's left of them in memories. I am grateful I found your blog in 2011 and have been enjoying your beautiful writing. Happy New Year!

mapstew said...

That was grand, and filled my head with ideas! Happy New Year! :¬)

xxx

Jayne said...

I loved this from the first line. Your writing warms the heart. Happy New Year, Sharon. :)

Jennifer Gleason said...

This is so wonderful. I truly envy your way with words.

Pat said...

What a lovely way to spend a Christmas. It could all have gone so horribly wrong:)

Nicole said...

So glad your lovely holiday lead to this lovely piece of writing. Fu ny, I'm recalling a few rentals we've shared with friend's over the years and finding I feel at home in your memory because of the experience of my own. That's good writing for you! Thanks. :)

elaine rickett said...

Oo I haven't had a Snowball in years - I forgot that they always used to be part of Christmas at my Grandparents house - your post has brought back some lovely memories.

Sharon Longworth said...

Philip - thank you. Not difficult to write about such a very lovely week :)

mybabyjohn/Delores - that's a lovely idea - a filing cabinet full of memories to be pulled out and looked at again and again - thank you.

Mollie - thank you! I'm glad you were able to be there for a while - even if only virtually.

Nessa Roo - Oh my goodness, I should have thought of that! Snowballs are a regular part of my Christmas routine, but of course I mean the eggnog variety...

Sydneylk - ok, I'm avoiding all future references to adulterated snow!

Sharon Longworth said...

Mercyn - thank you! I know how lucky I was to be there - it was a great week, which made it easy to write about as well.

Raymond - that's a smashing comment - thank you. And happy new year to you too.

Savannah - too kind, but it was wonderful! thank you.

Matt - thank you - I'm genuinely pleased you liked this.

Shea - thank you!

Iamsuperrein - and thank you to you too!

Sharon Longworth said...

Blissed out Grandma - thank you - I'm glad you like it.

IG - I think you would have made a great addition to the party!

Arwa - thank you, and a very happy 2012 to you too.

Starlight - as ever, thank you and I'm glad you liked it.

Ayozie - I'm running out of ways to say thank you, but thank you!

Dicky - I'm glad I'm not alone in my fondness for a snowball! It was a smashing house and I love to think of all the things that might have happened in it before us, and might go on long after we've left as well. Happy new year to you too!

Sharon Longworth said...

Bill - thank you. This was the very first time I'd spent christmas with friends rather than family, so there was a certain amount of trepidation and a dose of guilt beforehand. But it all worked out splendidly in the end.

Materfamilias - yes, snowballs are full of nostalgia for me as well - the one 'adult' drink we were allowed as young teenagers.

Eryl - thank you so much. A very happy 2012 to you too - I hope it brings you all you wish for.

Liz - thank you. I'm hoping our next holiday will be a really big one - all the way to Canada!

Steven - thank you for your comment and your good wishes - a very fine 2012 to you too!

Sharon Longworth said...

DPR - alternative washing involved the best shower I've stood under for some time! It was indeed all lovely - even without the ancient bushman there to give me advice...

Debi - that's such a smashing thing to say - thank you so much.

ND Mitchell - it was great - better than I'd hoped. Thank you for your comment and a very happy new year to you too.

Hannah - relaxing and reconnecting - that sums it up so well! Happy new year to you too.

Sandra - I'm so pleased you like what you've found here. I hope 2012 is great for you.

Mapstew - now I want to know all about the ideas that are filling your head! Happy new year to you too.

Sharon Longworth said...

Jayne - thank you so much, and a very happy 2012 to you.

Jennifer - too kind, but thank you!

Pat - it was absolutely lovely - though I did have to overcome a certain amount of panic in the days leading up to it, it turned out to be something I'd do again with absolutely no hesitation.

Nicole - I can't believe this was the first time I've ever done a 'group' holiday - I've only ever gone away with family or just one other person before. This was simply lovely, so I can't wait to do another one now!

Elaine - thank you. I think the camp is divided on snowballs, but I'm glad I've found a few other people who share my memories!
Happy new year to you.

Mals!! said...

The read filled me with warmth! Really good job!

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