WHEN I was about eight years old, I read that my name, Natalie, is derived from the Latin Natalia, meaning Christmas Day.
“Oh!” I thought, “How wonderful! I am named after the very best time of the year; the time of parties, presents, lights, chocolate and magic!” And from then on, I’ve forever chased that picture-perfect Christmas Day.
25 years later and I’ve had to accept that my name is actually — and perhaps more fittingly — synonymous with the most stressful, manic and chaotic time of year.
“I’m not sure that ‘Christmas Day’ was such a great name choice,” I mutter to my mother on the 25th of December, as I stand dishevelled, sweating and swearing in oven gloves and reindeer antlers in her sweltering kitchen.
Children are shrieking in the next room, as they run around in a sugar-fuelled frenzy, hitting each other with lightsabers and firing Nerf guns into ornaments and poor Uncle Vinnie who seems to have peaked too early and is snoring loudly by the fire.
A tipsy game of Twister has been abolished after a glass was kicked over, and a few of the ‘bigger kids’ are engaged in loud, drunken debates on politics, religion, racism and the economy — a disaster waiting to happen! Auntie Tina who traded breakfast for mulled wine to peel the potatoes this morning keeps appearing to ask if dinner is ready yet and to inform me that “One should always partboil.”
I’ve mistimed the vegetables, the oven is smoking… and a remote control car smashes into my bare ankles for the tenth time.
My mother looks up from behind the steaming pots and pans, “You weren’t named after Christmas at all,” she laughs, “You were named after Natalie Wood. I just loved her in the film West Side Story.”
And just like that, the spell is broken, and I can finally stop pretending to love Christmas. Overeating, overspending, overacting and overindulging… the best part of Christmas is the fact that it’s finally OVER.
Large families are wonderful, but after seven days under the same roof as four of my siblings, uncles, aunts and extended family, all fantasies of ‘Love Actually’ style scenarios have been replaced by an all-singing, all-dancing, high-drama, feuding-family production, comparable in fact to West Side Story.
As 2018 begins and I sit down to list my New Year’s resolutions, I can’t help but laugh at my own absurdity. Last year was an endless stream of MORE.
More activities, more jobs, more work, more regimes, plans and projects… and this year it is quite the contrary. LESS. Buy less. Spend less. Hurry less. Worry less. Less deadlines, less drama, less haste, less waste and ohhhh less stress.
I announce my ‘desire for less’ as we say our goodbyes on the final day, packing bags, hugging and crying, as family members set off for the airport. ‘Peace, quiet and serenity… that’s what I’m after this year’ I sigh, hugging my sister, ‘No drama!’
A writer friend looks over at us and raises an eyebrow, ‘But it’s all material!’ he grins.
Outraged, my sister jerks around.
“IT IS NOT! She shrieks, “There’s no padding at all!” And before anyone has time to explain, she grabs my hand and places it firmly over her breast. “See! No padding! It’s NOT all material!”
“Writing…” I begin, slowly, “Writing… The drama is all material for my writing… May I remove my hand now?”
For the next five minutes we all laugh, shaking and wiping tears from our eyes, as the hysteria overwhelms us and the pure comedy is genius.
‘Same time next year?’ My sister smiles, and I can’t help but nod.
And so another 365 orbits around the sun begins… A year of meditation, minimising… and perhaps just a sprinkle of madness — after all, it’s all material!