When I was growing up I imagined getting older, getting married and having children. I imagined visiting my parents on a Sunday and spending Christmas at their house – recreating the amazing Christmases of my childhood.
But then, when I was a teenager, my parents split up and shortly afterwards I found myself living independently, working full time and paying rent. I had a few years of strange Christmases. Ones where I would work as much as possible over the festive period, and ones that I spent in houses with people who weren’t really family. Christmas was fine but it wasn’t the way it should have been.
But then I met my Husband and had some of the best family Christmases over the years. Spending Christmas day with his parents and then Boxing Day with my Dad and his new partner. Alternating those days each Christmas as the years went by.
This is how I saw life continuing when we had our own family. That we would spend Christmas at home, inviting family to have Christmas at our house whilst the kids played with their gifts before going to the other side of the family for Boxing Day and repeating the Christmas experience, the children dragging their favourite toys along with them.
But a few years ago my family situation changed and aside from my Husband’s wonderful family we were left with only a couple of other family members on my side – my Dad and brother – and nowhere that we could go to spend Christmas, or any other occasion, with my family members outside of our own home. Nowhere we could spend Boxing Day – or a random Sunday. Nowhere that I could even remotely think of as home.
Don’t get me wrong, Dave’s parents are lovely and they live in such a homely house and the same one Dave grew up in. Their house is full of happy memories and it’s a place I love to spend time but it isn’t a house that holds memories for me, of my childhood. A house like that no longer exists for me and that is something I find quite hard.
Friends mostly have a family home. Somewhere that they go to on a Sunday, for Christmas or for Easter. Somewhere they may not have grown up but somewhere that has childhood photos on the wall and familiar pieces of furniture, bedding or just a blanket that make them feel nostalgic and make thoughts of their childhood come flooding back. They’re houses that have room for them, where they can stay overnight or for a few days and where they can instantly feel at home.
But it’s not just a family home that I don’t have. It’s also everything that comes with it. Parents to spend quality lengths of time with, chatting late into the night over a bottle of wine. Another set of grandparents for the children, ones to have sleepovers with and go on days out. Somewhere to go for no reason at all and somewhere to spend time with the children. A home from home.
Every so often I get swept up in thoughts of what could have been, if a different path had been travelled. A family home to go back to at weekends, another Christmas tree to sit around on Boxing Day and somewhere to sit in my pyjamas whilst the kids sleep upstairs. Somewhere the kids could play, and other people the kids could get to know. Tales of my childhood told to the children by someone other than me and a whole set of family photographs that the children wouldn’t have seen before – each one holding a story to be told.
But the children won’t have that. They won’t experience another set of grandparents or the excitement of having another grandparents’ house to go to. They won’t have that consistency of somewhere so familiar to spend time at or somewhere else to have sleepovers.
But then I think of everything the children do have. The children have an amazing set of grandparents who see them every single week, often a few times in the week too. They have quality time with them and they know where their Nanny and Yar-Yar live. They love going to their house and seeing them is one of their favourite things, getting them excited like nothing else. Apart from Dave and I, Nanny and Yar-Yar are their favourite people in the world.
Then the children have all of our close friends, friends who are better than family. They have their Uncle Trevor and a couple more Grandads too. The only thing they are missing is that other place to go, the other family home. But really are they missing it at all?
The children have a life full of people that love them and so many homes to go to and play. They have so many friends and family and really don’t need any more. They are not missing out on anything and don’t have a gap in their lives where another set of grandparents and an extended family home should be.
That really is my gap. I have that gap and it’s a gap that cannot be filled. It’s a gap that leaves me with a sense of loss at what could have been but knowing that it can never be the way I had always imagined. But I know that my sense of loss is not the children’s loss. In having that gap in my life I have done everything I can to give the children a life that is full – full of people, places and love – with no real gap at all.