I’m walking the dog with my daughter realising it’s muddier than we’d thought and talking Christmas puddings.
“Why do you make two every year?” she asks
“So that we have a spare”
“For what? An unexpected Christmas?”
I do it because my mother did it. Every year there is one pudding leftover that sits in the kitchen for twelve months and is reluctantly eaten on a random day between Christmas and New Year when nobody wants it.
“When I’m gone, I hope you’ll keep up the tradition,” I tell her.
“The tradition of the dead man’s Christmas pudding,” she mutters, loud enough for me to hear.
Every evening through Advent I light an ivory pillar candle and try to take a few minutes of reflection.
When I was a child I had an Advent candle with numbers on it, one to be burned down each evening, but I invariably forgot about it whilst watching “Z Cars” and it burned down four or five days worth before I noticed.
In those days I felt the giddy excitement of time passing, but now I feel a good deal more reverence for its speed.
So I stare at the flame.
I think about how I hope that everything might feel less precarious sometime soon, and about how we have to get through what may well be a long and difficult winter beforehand.
To Christians, Advent is not the end of something or the beginning of something, it marks the space between the two. A time of hope and trepidation, each a result of the other.
But regardless of everything I am especially grateful for two wonderful gifts this year.
The first is the almost permanent presence of my children, people I would generally only see for a few bleary-eyed hours bookending the day if I am lucky.
Last year the hand-crafted Advent calendar they have shared responsibility for since they were small children went left untouched for days on end.
There is a small note stitched onto the back reminding us of whose turn it is to hang the first trinket on the green velvet tree in which year, thus indicating who has the honour of hanging up number 24.
Last year, the Christmas tree was decorated in stages or shifts or possibly a bit of both, with the final baubles hung upon it after a particularly beery night out just before Christmas, resulting in everything hanging guiltily down one side requiring a complete rearrangement the following morning.
But this year they are here all the time, eating every meal, coming to choose the tree, diligently pulling the fabric Santas and candy canes from the neatly numbered pockets on the Advent calendar.
In honesty, it feels like a blessing we may never enjoy in quite the same way again.
These small delights of togetherness fall into the category of the other thing I am grateful for this year, a reminder of the importance of small things, the aspects of life that remain within our control whichever vagaries ravage our mythical notion of certainty.
The more control has been wrested from me the more I have looked towards things that are inherently mine simply because I have thought them, felt them, or created them.
The very best example I have seen of it anywhere in my universe this year is this wonderful project by my writing and cyber friend Emily Wick. It feels like a new way to interpret difficulty, and that’s something we all need.
Now I have to go and get the cake from the oven.
“Can we put less fruit in it so that there’s more cake?” My daughter asks, beating the butter and sugar into a pale cappuccino coloured cream as we weave in and out around one another in the sweet-smelling kitchen, listening to Christmas carols.
I smile with my back to her and say,
“Of course we can. We can do whatever we like.”