By Grainne McCool
Christmas is all about family. It’s the time of year for family to come home and spend the festive season together. My own is no exception.
This Christmas I will be spending the day with my very own little family alongside my parents and big sister Louise, who is coming home from Birmingham for the holidays.
Christmas 2013 was my first season minus one of my children.
My eldest son Éamonn had gone to Canada earlier that year to work for a period.
He was spending Christmas in the Canadian outback with his boss’ family.
I was delighted that he was getting to experience this time of year in a very different culture but it left a sadness hanging over our Christmas at home.
Last year he travelled home for Christmas and has since settled here.
Although he now lives independently from us, we do see him on a regular basis.
On Christmas Day, he will join us all for dinner and that special family time.
For a number of years, from 2005 to 2010, I had been studying full time at Ulster University.
First semester exams were always held in early January.
During those Christmases I was busy studying over the holidays and only had Christmas Day free.
In those years, my mother very kindly cooked Christmas dinner for my family and took that added pressure of me.
Following my graduation, I then took over the role of preparing Christmas dinner for my own family, parents and siblings.
This year that preparation is returning to my childhood homestead.
My second son Oisín, came home last weekend from college.
He’s here for three weeks. Although he has exams immediately after the holidays he will take a few days free to enjoy this important family time.
Over the coming days my big sister Louise will return from Birmingham, where she works as a history teacher.
She, alongside my mother will venture into Derry and do the extra large food shop.
And then on Christmas Eve the two will begin dinner preparation for the following day.
Christmas Day will see us all congregate on the homestead.
My three sons, my husband and myself will travel the short journey around lunchtime and I will then assist big sis with the dinner.
No doubt a bottle of ‘red’ will be opened!
Christmas dinner will be a feast of the usual turkey, ham and all the trimmings. But the real trimmings will be that element of ‘family’.
I’m fortunate to have two very healthy parents in my life.
My boys are fortunate to have two very healthy grandparents in their lives.
And Christmas is the day that we all truly value such.
My parents are a very important part of my boys’ lives.
From the baby stage they were both very actively involved.
That involvement was normally babysitting duties, that allowed my husband and I to have time for ourselves throughout those child rearing days.
That special time has now paid off in that we enjoy our relationship to the full, having three grown boys, as opposed to the babies they once were.
When the boys are home now, their Grandad regularly calls in to invite them to McDonald’s for lunch.
This is more for his food cravings than it is for the boys. But this is a special time.
The boys know how special these moments are and they enjoy these outings immensely.
And when one of the boys is needing a lift (be it to football, to the pub, or to the girlfriend’s) it’s granddad who gets the call – taxi is always just a phone-call away.
So as Christmas Day fast approaches, it gives my three boys the opportunity to spend a very important day with very important people. Their family. My family. Our family.
Christmas is all about family, and I for one, am glad that mine are all together for the holidays.