Boxing Day and Family: 2013 365 Challenge #361

Decorating the box boat

Decorating the box boat

Today is Boxing Day in the UK. For many it’s Christmas Day Mark 2, when the rest of the rellies visit or are visited. As a child and into adulthood it was my ‘Other Christmas’, as I alternated between divorced parents year after year.

I think sometimes that’s why Christmas has never been uber exciting for me: it was always “whose Christmas is it, where are we this year?” and visiting my Dad was never easy.

Now he’s gone, of course I wish nothing more than to be travelling down the A1 with my children to see the grandpa they never got to meet.

That said, I have enjoyed having a day home with my immediate family today. A quiet morning watching Princess and the Frog (well, I watched it, the kids gave up and played on the ipad) followed by a trip to get coffee and magazines.

Assembling the trampoline

Assembling the trampoline

In the afternoon Grandpa popped over and he and Daddy assembled the giant 14ft trampoline which is ostensibly the kids’ Christmas gift but might become Mummy’s new workout place. We’ll see how the knees cope.

We were lucky enough to catch up with most of our extended family on Christmas Eve and yesterday. Hubbie’s sister and nephew Skyped from Italy on Christmas Eve and my sister and Family Skyped from the States 9am Christmas morning to show off their gifts. Grandad called from a cruise ship in the middle of the Tasmanian sea, on the other side of the world, without even a hint of delay on the line. I shared pictures and videos on Facebook as gifts were opened.

With my family at the end of an internet connection, there was no need to be in the car today. Though I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t ideal. The best Christmas ever was when they were all around my kitchen table (and my amazing mother still did the cooking); but it isn’t lonely.

Bouncing high

Bouncing high

With an afternoon in the chilly sun with excited children watching their gift being built, without a sale or a shop in sight, it was a perfect Boxing Day. They even managed to get in a quick bounce before the setting sun spread dew across the surface and it became more an ice rink than a trampoline.

Of course at 4.30pm, having been up since 6am on five hours’ sleep, with the kids still going strong, I am about ready for the day to be over. I’m walking the dog instead. Only 2 hours of board games and rock guitar until bedtime (for them at least: I still have to get Claire home!)

A little PS as a writer – the weather has totally defined this Christmas. It wouldn’t have been half as magical without the blue skies and lack of predicted stormy weather. Something to think about.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire scanned the posts on her blog again and opened her eyes wide. According to her calculations, her first Monday at her new job working for Timothy would mark two-hundred days since she left for Berwick-Upon-Tweed. All those months of thinking the two-hundred steps signified the two hundred hostels, and in the end it meant something completely different.

And will I be home? Not the home I started from, that’s for sure.

She thought back to her apartment in Manchester, her car, her job. It wasn’t just another lifetime away, it belonged to another person. She would no more fit in that world now than that Claire would be comfortable here, sitting on a red velour sofa by the fireplace in an Edwardian villa, looking out the window at Lyme Bay and wondering if there was any surf.

Her previous life felt meaningless, frivolous. Working to buy things to make up for spending so much time working. With all her possessions in storage she felt unfettered and able to fly. But she also felt an emptiness that frightened her. Without the need to strive for success, what was there? Where was life’s meaning? What was the point of getting up every day?

She put down her laptop and rubbed her eyes. Despite knowing the presentation backwards, her stomach still bubbled like a hot spring when she thought about delivering it in the morning. She knew the real reason for her nerves, and pushed the unwelcome thought away. Walking over to the window, she tried to look past the fenced-in  scrubland directly in front of the hostel, to see the endless shingle of Chesil beach. All she could make out was a line of blue, back lit against dark storm clouds.

Suddenly she needed to be outside, under the moody skies. She grabbed the laptop and hurried back to her room. She cursed as she tangled the laces on her hiking boots, tugging at them until they threatened to snap. Tied at last, she pulled on her waterproof jacket, pocketed her phone, and headed out.

*

From a distance, Chesil beach had appeared to be a golden arc of glorious sand. After walking along it for an hour, Claire could testify that it was anything but. Her ankles ached from trying to keep balance on the endless pebbles, and she wondered why she hadn’t turned back. Did she intend to walk the full eighteen miles? What then; walk eighteen miles back? What was she trying to prove?

With no answers, Claire continued on. The sea talked to her endlessly as she walked; the waves rushing in only to fall back with a hissing sigh. Over and over the waves caressed the indifferent shore, and each time they uttered a drawn-out exhalation on the futility of life. It was a mournful sound but , at the same time, it provided comfort. The ticking clock of nature.

The waves grew higher, stronger. Great plumes of white foam swirled up the beach at an angle, surging towards Claire’s feet as if seeking to drag her back into the frothy deep. She’d read in the guide book that the waves created a lethal undertow and that surfing and swimming were only for the suicidal.

Now and then she passed fishermen and women, staring out to sea next to a stationary rod.

I wonder if they catch anything. Or if they even want to.

She stopped once, some distance behind one of the solitary figures, and followed their gaze out to sea. The quiet roar of the ocean became the only sound and, as she stood motionless, Claire felt herself swaying with the pulse of the universe. A sudden surge of water broke the stillness and – like the lightning at the festival earlier in the week – reminded her of the power of nature and the insignificance of man.

After all, what is a failed romance to the infinite universe? A spec of sand on an eighteen-mile beach.

Claire stooped and scooped up a handful of wet pebbles. They glistened in bright hues of red and brown, orange and grey. She knew the beauty would disappear when they dried and they would become ordinary stones, unremarkable. But drenched by the engulfing waves they shone like gemstones.

Still crouched by the edge of the tide, Claire looked along the beach as far as she could. Despite the ache deep inside where her affection for Conor lay broken, she felt a sense of peace, of oneness with something greater than herself. She felt refreshed, as if she too had been washed clean by the never-ending waves. As if it was her time to reveal her true colours.

She stood and put her shoulders back. Turning to face the way she had come, Claire walked back to the hostel and whatever the morning would bring.

***

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