Our family has its very own ghost of Christmas past – her name is Betsy Hilda Morrison and she was my grandmother. She died thirty years ago, but she wouldn’t miss Christmas for the world (or otherworld in her case). She stands like a beaming Yoda at the end of The Jedi Returns benevolently looking on as the family continues the traditions she established.
Betsy, or Bessie as she was known, loved Christmas – she looked forward to it from one year to the next. If she had had her way the Christmas decorations would have stayed up until Easter, but my Aunt Zoe insisted on taking them down at Twelfth Night. Christmas Day was not enough for Bessie. On Christmas Day she and Aunty would arrive complete with presents at our house in time for Christmas lunch and leave in the evening. But on Boxing Day the process was reversed, we went to their house and what would you know – Father Christmas always seemed to get horribly confused because he had filled stockings for us there too! So we had Christmas twice, thanks to Betsy Hilda. When Boxing Day was over Betsy would look forward to the next big event – the trip to the January Sales at which she would buy Christmas presents.
Anyone meeting my charming grandmother could be easily be mistaken into thinking this little woman with white hair she referred to as “baby’s bum fluff” was a sweet old dear. But behind her considerable charm was a formidable mind and memory and a will of iron. Betsy was a matriarch of the first order and God help anyone who wronged her or hers. This killer instinct came in very useful in the run-up to Christmas as Granny did the rounds of the local whist drives. She never came away without winning something. Her memory and head for figures making her virtually unbeatable with a good partner. I remember regularly getting into my Aunt’s car to be told “Your Granny’s won another turkey!”
When Betsy died, my Aunt continued the tradition of the family Boxing Day although by now Father Christmas was mistakenly delivering presents for the next generation. No longer oversupplied with turkeys Aunt would bone and stuff ducks for Boxing Day, which were to my mind preferable to turkey. And when Aunt Zoe died, it was my turn to take on Betsy’s baton and celebrate our very special Boxing Day.
We live in Aunt Zoe’s house and when we started going through her things I found the Christmas Box. In it were the Christmas tree decorations with which we used to adorn the tree, taking orders from a seated Betsy. Also in the box were supplies of wrapping paper and labels, which dated back twenty five years to a time when Betsy had had a corner shop in the Forest of Dean, and which, when Betsy had retired, had come with her to her new home. I still have the labels, I don’t use them – they are far too old fashioned – but “waste not, want not,” as my Granny would say.
Born at the end of the nineteenth century, Betsy was brought up by her grandparents and used to keep me enthralled with her memories of a very Victorian childhood, including memories of Christmases of that very different time. Memories of a stocking which might if you were lucky contain an orange no doubt inspired her in making her family’s Christmas so abundant.This blog post is part of the Meet The Family Blog Hop.