I've waited far longer than usual to take down my Christmas cards. I didn't get many, fewer than half of those I sent out, but they've been cluttering up the corner of my living room since mid-December. One of the last to arrive came from my parents. I recognised the font on the label on the envelope, and the greater-than-normal thickness which signalled a hand-made creation inside. Ripping open the seal I found a triangular card within, on which was stitched a symmetrical green fir tree. Typically "my Mum", it was - simple and straight-forward at first sight, but rather more involved and complicated on closer inspection. Those endpoints must have been carefully measured, and the golden flames on each branch constructed from tiny intricate stitches. I smiled, and placed the card in pride of place on top of my TV set.
There's it's stayed for the last three weeks, at the centre of my line of sight, in clear view above hours of festive programming. And I daren't take it down. Because a couple of days after it arrived, while I wasn't looking, it transformed from just another Christmas card into an object of unexpected significance. Inside are the last words my mother ever wrote to me, and the first two are "With love". Who cares if Twelfth Night was last week - that card stays.
It's her funeral tomorrow, so I've hunted out a dark suit and I'm taking that to Norfolk, where I'll no doubt take the opportunity to reflect and smile and gulp and wobble. That'll bring some degree of closure, perhaps, so that when I return home I'll finally be able to take down her Christmas card. I'll read the message inside one more time, place the folded triangle back inside its original envelope, and then file it away in a special place in my spare room.
One day, when it's my turn to pass on, some poor sod is going to get the job of clearing out my spare room. I expect they'll take one look and either call in a house clearance specialist or else dump the whole lot in binbags. They'll never know which of the boxes contain the special stuff, nor will it ever be special to them in the same way it's special to me. But, until Bin Day arrives, these few threads on a scrap of card will be a treasured possession. Out of sight but not out of mind. With love from Mum... xx