Jessica Gilmore, tells us all about the best Christmas gifts ever…
“When I think about Christmas, presents for me are at the bottom of the list. Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to find tickets under the tree for a luxury weekend somewhere warm with lots of Roman ruins, and my husband knows that he’d better wrap up a small rectangle box with Tatty Devine emblazoned across the front and put together a stocking full of thoughtful small gifts.
But truthfully what I really love about Christmas is the traditions. Shopping with the daughter, finding the right presents, really meaning to make homemade mincemeat and mulled wine but buying it from M&S again. Decorating the tree the weekend before Christmas, the Crib Service at the Minster on Christmas Eve. The first showing of the Muppets’ Christmas Carol and getting a little choked up. Leaving out a glass of something no responsible sleigh driver should consume – and then swigging it after the daughter is in bed. That’s what Christmas means to me.
But obviously it is nice to receive as well as to give and I have been lucky enough to receive many beautiful and thoughtful gifts over the years. Two really stand out not because they were expensive – they weren’t, or because I asked for them – I didn’t. I didn’t even know that I wanted them. They stand out because time, effort and love was poured into them and that makes them really special.
The first is a present my daughter gave to me two years ago. She was just ten at the time and I was getting a little worried because she had taken to hiding herself away in her room a lot. Was this early adolescence? A warning of the teen years to come when I would be lucky to get a grunt out of her let alone a whole conversation? The sofa seemed empty without her, the room too quiet. I didn’t need to worry. She was hidden away making me a gift.
That summer I had been offered my first contract with Mills & Boon, the year before the family had got our very first, much loved dog. My daughter combined these two significant events by decoupaging a cardboard dog in old Mills & Boon pages, covered in glitter glue. It was the most unexpected present ever! She spent hours and hours on it – the thought and care she put into the present are absolutely priceless and my little paperback dog will always have pride of place on our bookshelves.
The other present was from my mother a few years back before digital cameras made photobooks ubiquitous. She took the old family photo albums and made my sister and I personalised albums charting our childhoods from newborns to awkward teens. They are poignant and hilarious, documenting long buried fashions, disastrous haircuts, long ago holidays, Christmases and birthdays that I can’t remember and memories of those gone from my life too soon; my grandparents, my cousin, my father. My sister and I stopped opening presents, both totally absorbed in the albums, in our pasts, in our memories.
The best presents don’t have to cost a lot to mean everything.”