It suddenly struck me yesterday. In Sainsbury’s in Braehead, since you ask. The Thing that had been worrying me this Christmas, and probably many previous ones too.
I was in browsing the bog roll as Boy One was at the Saturday Sweep – the regular have-a-go curling session. It’s a new venture (curling not toilet tissue) and is borne of my concern that he needs a social life that isn’t just classmates and family. During study leave, for example, I’d come home and find my poor ears assaulted by a barrage of words because he hadn’t spoken to anyone all day. More weight to my theory that we all have words inside us that must be spent one way or another.
I know Aspies often don’t see the point of unnecessary social interaction, or mine doesn’t anyway, but they need it – whether they like it or not. And his avoidance of others concerns me with university looming before long. So I told him he needed to find something to do, or I’d find something for him that I considered suitable and we both know how that’s likely to turn out.
Eventually, he slouched back and told me he’d try curling and there was a session at Braehead most Saturdays which is why I was to be found, against all sensible advice, at one of the country’s biggest shopping centres the last Saturday before Christmas.
The Panther of News is working this Christmas Day, so there seems less reason than usual to cook overpriced poultry. The Boys and I are going to spend the festivities on the sofa in our PJs and we’re allowed to eat exactly what we want. I took orders and that’s why I was prowling the aisles with a trolley full of turkey dinosaurs, cake, pizza and pancakes. Classy. There may also have been some Prosecco, but I can’t be certain.
My fellow shoppers – stoically sporting seasonal knitwear – shared a look of determination and urgency as they flung “essential” cheese boards and bags of nuts into the trolleys. It’s a funny old time of year.
(Side note: why don’t supermarkets offer the option to have someone take over the tedious packing, repacking and loading in the car bit of the job? I’d pay for that service.)
On Thursday, we’d been at Boy Three’s Christmas show. This had prompted much discussion about why a non-denominational school should spend so much time and energy in Christianity and exactly how a secular nativity would work. I mooted the idea that maybe we shouldn’t bother with any of it then but no one seemed keen.
During the show, it became clear that the most important part of the shindig for many kids was the arrival of Santa. In fact, little baby Jesus hardly got a look in alongside the big fellow and his bag of pressies. Almost like he’s the one they worship – singing praises, offering sacrifices, conducting rituals and adhering to a scientifically improbable belief.
Is that where we’re at now? We worship SC rather than JC. It seems that way.
And that’s what struck me while I was wondering whether sesame seeds were catalogued with nuts or baking ingredients in this shop. So many of us are athiest/agnostic/apathetic, yet are quite cheerfully stuffing an organised religion-shaped hole with commercialised, sentimental festive clap-trap.
I wonder if deep-down we realise this and are too scared to stop the frenzied activity in case we have to face the truth: The grotto is empty – it’s a void – there’s nothing more meaningful than an excuse to spend money, eat too much and spend longer than usual on the sofa.
And if that’s true and we pause for a moment, we’ll find ourselves stranded at home with people we don’t have anything to say to, eating food we don’t want and being grateful for things we don’t need. Hmmm.
This baked beans aisle revelation didn’t have me sobbing, instead, I felt much, much lighter. Liberated if you will. I’m going to think of it as a winter festival that’s giving me a copper-bottomed excuse to do some of my favourite things, which may, or may not, include overeating and spending money.
Ho ho ho.