Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Thanks to my dear mum, I'll hopefully have Christmas all wrapped up again

By Kerry McLean

I try to avoid any large groups at this time of year. At the school gates, in work, queuing in the supermarket, I keep my head down and avoid eye contact. Why? Not for any bah-humbug reasons but because I know that without fail, if I so much as look up, I'll get dragged into a conversation with one of 'those' people.

You know the type, someone who'll ask if you're ready for Christmas Day and then look horrified when you confess that all you've done is buy two family-sized tins of sweets at the start of December… two tins which you subsequently fell into, mouth first, as the month went on. They'll back away from you slowly, still smiling, as if your disorganisation might be catching, all the while telling you that they bought all their presents in the January sales and sent the last of their Christmas cards in October.

I'm genuinely happy for those who've avoided the Christmas panic and every year I tell myself I'll be one of them, sitting back, relaxing on the run up to Christmas Day, mulled wine in one hand, TV guide in the other, calmly awaiting the Main Man and his reindeer.

Yet, here I am again, with a matter of hours to go until the big day and I still have a ton of shopping and wrapping to do. Not that it's entirely my fault.

As a young, single and carefree woman in her twenties, I had it sussed. Present buying was something I lingered over, carefully selecting the ideal gift for each person on my list and wrapping my perfect festive finds in beautiful paper complete with hand curled ribbons and matching bows.

Then I met my husband to be, got married and somehow my workload doubled. I don't remember the vow, 'Do you promise to love, honour, obey and help select his family and friend's Christmas gifts plus wrap them all', but it must be in there as it seems to be the festive fate that befalls many a wife. Andy Williams may have crooned about it being, '... the most wonderful time of the year ...' but I can't help but picture Mrs Williams at home, muttering a few unseasonal words as she parcels up her mother-in-law's presents all the while fighting to find the end of the sticky tape.

Not that I'm complaining, honestly! This is my favourite time of year and while my gift wrapping control may have reset at a lower level, my excitement is still sky high. That may have a lot to do with the fact that I'm not the one who has to prepare the mammoth meal that is Christmas dinner. My lovely mum turns out a spectacular feast for all the family every December.

A superb cook all year round, she ramps it up several notches for the 25th and I'd challenge any high-class chef to top her tasty treats. She'll make a choice of starters, turkey with all the trimmings, homemade Christmas and sticky toffee puddings with liqueur coffees for afters. I can feel my waist widen just thinking about it.

A few years ago, I insisted that she take a break from the oven and let me have a go. Knowing that I'm not the best cook in the world and a complete wuss about touching meat, she did voice her objections but I insisted, no, I'd be fine. I mean, how hard could it be?!

An hour later I turned up at her door in floods of tears, yellow rubber gloves on my hand and a raw turkey in a black bin bag. I'll spare you the gory details but suffice it to say I still can't watch James Cameron's blockbuster, The Abyss without having flashbacks of hoking round the back end of the turkey for the giblets…

So mum will work her magic in the kitchen again this year, somehow all the presents will be bought and parcelled up and on Monday more happy memories will be made as our family comes together.

We'll toast those who can't be with us and are very much missed and we'll have a great day, full of love and laughter. I sincerely hope you do too. Merry Christmas, to one and all.

The Kerry McLean Afternoon Show is on Monday-Thursday, BBC Radio Ulster, 3-5pm

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