For Tadpole’s sake, I am valiantly struggling to make Christmas feel special.
As with all treats, like a trip to see grandma and grandad, or mamie et papy, or even just the prospect of a weekend with daddy, I enjoy whetting her appetite, watching her excitement build every time I mention it, until, finally, she reaches fever pitch. Because my own childhood memories suggest that it’s the anticipation of the event which is often the best part.
So, on Sunday, despite a mild hangover, I braved the department stores of the Boulevard Haussmann so that Tadpole could marvel at the Christmas windows. Her little ooh’s and aah’s of delight were almost worth the stranger danger terror each time I lost her pigtails from sight for a few heart-stalling seconds. The windows at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps have cunning little boardwalks erected in front of them, you see, and you are expected to dispatch your little darling onto the steps at one end, then wade through the sea of frazzled parents, stacked approximately ten deep from windows to edge of pavement, and intercept your child at the other end. There are some activities which are much more difficult as a single parent, and this most definitely qualifies.
On Monday I heaved a rather soggy Christmas tree home, a fine mist of drizzle making it difficult to see much through my glasses, and causing me to bump into several fellow pedestrians. After some head scratching, I finally remembered that my Christmas decorations had been safely stowed in Mr Frog’s cellar when I moved apartments. Once these had been duly recovered, Tadpole helped me to hang the stars and tinsel – breaking only two paper-thin baubles – and her gasp when I switched on the lights gave me all the validation I needed for spending € 25 at the florist’s for a tree which doesn’t even come up to Tadpole’s forehead.
The presents I cunningly ordered two or three weeks ago arrived from Eveil et Jeux by post yesterday. Or rather, I collected them from the local post office, where unbeknown to me they had been sitting for the past week. I dashed home to wrap them immediately, so that if they were accidentally found, the surprises would remain intact. There are only so many hiding places a 33m2 apartment can afford, and a single game of hide and seek could all too easily throw the whole enterprise into jeopardy.
Our Christmas cards – featuring a festive Tadpole wearing antlers as per usual – were written, signed (both by me and by Tadpole) and posted two days ago. Hopefully the old antlers have a few years mileage in them yet, before Tadpole reaches for a telephone to call the French equivalent of Childline.
It would appear, on the surface, that everything is in place.
And yet, somehow, my heart just isn’t in the whole thing. Whatever we do, it feels as though something, or someone is missing. An extra pair of eyes at the grands magasins, an extra pair of hands helping me to drag the tree home from the florists and hang the decorations, another person to help me choose and wrap the gifts.
There is a Mr Frog shaped hole in our Christmas preparations.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want to rekindle the flame with Mr Frog. It’s just that there’s something about Christmas which makes me yearn for his presence alongside us. Watching Tadpole’s delight alone is only half as exciting as watching it with him. Instead of catching his eye and exchanging gleeful smiles, I must content myself with sending pictures and short “guess what she’s done now!” texts to his mobile. It’s not the same.
I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that there are some parental pleasures which need to be shared in order to be fully appreciated.