And not just because I am cheap.
When you are a child, Christmas is all about you.
Sometime later, at least by the cusp of adulthood, it expands to be about everyone. Which is awful. It creates a series of dilemmas: what to gift, who to spend it with, how to feign happiness at socks and jocks, dear God I’m out of booze, why won’t all these people go home, I just want to watch Die Hard.
Eventually, you may have a newborn, and Christmas will stop being about you at all. It will, incredibly, be even less about the baby (surprise!) and, tops, 10 percent about your partner.
Christmas is about, and for, grandparents.
Eight weeks before Christmas I was blessed with a new housemate so awful that I struggle to describe his flaws. Sid cries me awake throughout the night, farts like a trombone and cost me thousands upon thousands of dollars to (possibly irreparably) damage my wife’s lady parts.
Of course, Sid is a baby. My baby. And what do you get for babies on their first Christmas? Should you, with a tot just two months of age, buy anything at all? This is not a trick question. The answer is no.
And not just because I am cheap.
It’s not that I don’t like Sid. He is magnificent. In fact, he is perfect. If you are seeking perfection elsewhere, perhaps in a shimmering Tahitian sunset, or the infinitely delicate structure of a snowflake, or the transcendent morning birdsong of a nightingale, you should stop!
Perfection lives at my house, looks like a cross between Mr Magoo and Arthur Sinodinos, and shits himself forcefully, like a duck, six times a day (at least twice more than Arthur Sinodinos).
Sid’s little soft face is pink and tender and jowly, his importance so stark that rational thought can’t escape its gravity, even as liquids escape from all orifices.
He is a tiny prince. I love him totally, even as his giggles and tics make me soft in the head, the sort of idiot who tears up at insurance commercials, or inspirational Facebook wall quotes.
Yet, for Christmas, we got him nothing. No presents. No pictures with Santa. No trees draped with tinsel, no carols sung, no stockings or advent calendars.
Sid will not remember his first Christmas. It wasn’t about him, except tangentially.
Sid is the first grandchild of his generation. He is born to grandparents so proud that they expect to burst.
When he cries on their shoulders, or giggles on their knees, or craps on their crotches and their carpets, they are desperate and dumb with gratitude.
Being a parent is challenging. This is the main message of every identically shitty blog documenting the tragically underreported experiences of new motherhood. And I used to think, back when Christmas was all about me, that challenge was why my dad left when I was 10 and moved interstate.
It is also why my partner misses so terribly the advice from her mum, who died when she was 14.
Christmas is about grandparents, even in their absence. I see our boy, fat and cheeky, with a parent’s certainty of his exceptionalism, and feel the tragedy of a grandmother he’ll only see in pictures. His small fingers never to wrap around her thumb, her face never to scan his for familiar features.
I look at Sid and understand my own father even less.
“Christmas is about grandparents, even in their absence.”
I watch my boy in my old man/step dad’s giant, gnarled hands and see the pride in his white-whiskered face.
I see Sid windmilling his arms like a tiny Peter Garrett (circa The Dead Heart, 1987) in my wife’s father’s lap, with his wife stuttering and cooing and bright.
I see Sid showered in gifts at my mum’s, her dogs pushed aside, her home and her heart and her Facebook wall already small temples to his existence.
Nonsense conversations and cooking smells and magpies in the yard seeping into his subconscious.
I look at him with them and I can’t think of a single thing that I could give him to make things better.
So: no presents for Sid, except time with his elders. Time that he’ll forget, and that they’ll remember forever.
But then also, I am cheap.