We slept with Christmas stockings at the foot of our beds, before a feast the next day and the Queen’s speech. They were days both spiritual and homely
Christmas belonged to my grandmother. It was as if she invented it. On Christmas Eve, my mother would drive my sister and me from Hackney in east London to Hertfordshire. We’d arrive to an electric fire-heated house that smelled of toasted bread and radiated electric blankets. Grandma greeting us at the door, the Christmas lights blinking on the tree, Coco, her long-haired sausage dog wagging her tail at our shins. Barbara Antrobus was the quintessential English grandmother. The motherly widowed wife of a minister, still active in her community and well loved locally. Wearing floral cardigans, Coco on a short leash.
At bedtime we were tucked into our sheets with Christmas stockings at the foot of our beds. Every year those stockings got thicker, until we approached our teenage years and instead of stockings she had large white plastic bags with a snowman printed on them. Christmas grew with us in Grandma’s house; it took our measurements and was always prepared to fit whatever renewed expectations came with maturity.