Four o’ clock in the morning, and I’m sat in my mum’s living room with a very awake Teddy. Apparently the one infallible way to get out of jet lag is to fast for sixteen hours before the start of your new day. But you can’t starve out a baby, even one as squishy as this one, so. Four am isn’t always that bad, though. Look at his Buzz Lightyear pyjamas. Look at his chubby hands, waving under my nose with dimples for knuckles.
I thought that Christmas had to be cold and dark to feel Christmassy, but here we are in blazing sunshine and I feel terribly festive about it. The flights were an absolute horror (I was going to write a post about flying tips with young children, but at the moment all I can think of is Number One, Don’t Ever) but we finally, finally got here, staggering through Mobile’s little airport with three suitcases, four carry-ons, two zombified boys and a partridge in a pear tree. We were welcomed with Foosackley chicken and chips, which is what KFC aims to be after it’s died and gone to heaven; a hire car much bigger than it looked on the photo; and two brothers I hardly recognized.
They turned into adults, while I was gone, which shouldn’t be surprising but still catches me off guard. That first evening I sat with them in my mum’s big, squishy armchair, listening to them talk about university and jobs and girlfriends, and watching their hands. Man hands, big shoulders, hairy faces. I remember them with Buzz Lightyear pyjamas and dimples for knuckles, and it feels odd to watch them gesturing with man hands and wondering whether we’re really related. They are themselves, but with more of the rough edges rubbed off. Henry adores them. It’s lovely.
The first morning – high off 4am and twelve kinds of root beer – we ventured out to explore my mum’s back garden. It’s a giant, glorious wilderness with piles of leaves, sticks just ripe for the sword-fighting, and a tree with (we hear) raccoons inside. Paradise for a two-year-old, in other words. We ran around, climbed ladders, jumped off steps and sunned ourselves on the driveway. Henry is trying valiantly to make soulmates of my mum’s cats, but they’re taking a while to warm up to him. I don’t blame them.
Later we ventured out through the neighbourhood, to a little playground. It had about eleven green plastic slides that threw you into the air and gave you a whacking static shock at the end for your troubles. Henry insisted on pushing the pushchair back home afterwards. Every house here has giant pine trees in the front yard, pine straw and crunchy leaves underfoot. An old man walking his dog stopped to tell Henry a joke. Hen ran off to woo the cat for the fourteenth time, hands flying. His knuckles are still dimply, for now.
I have revised my Christmas necessities as follows: Christmas trees, old man jokes, stick sword-fights, a ready supply of uncles that jump off stuff with my boys. Sunshine as a bonus. It seems festive enough to me.