Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Christmas in Fairyland

Joshua - Xmas 2004

I have said often, that the world isn’t divided North and South; or Gay or Straight; or Black of White. The world is divided between those people who have children and those who do not. It is as simple and as straightforward as that. If you don’t have children, you simply cannot imagine what life is like with them around.

Let me start at the beginning. My partner of 12 years, Leon, was broody from the day I met him. And when your partner says they want children - achingly, desperately, completely – you either shake their hand firmly and wish them a nice life, or you get used to the idea. I had never considered children. (Well, I suppose I might have, briefly, when I was married to a woman – but the thought soon perished, along with the marriage.) And then suddenly, at the age of 45, I was faced with some extremely uncomfortable prospects: Nappies! Projectile vomit! Teething! It is, you will agree, rather strange, when most other Gay boys in Cape Town are driving around in cabriolet splendour and planning their next holiday on a little known Greek Isle with beautiful local waiters.

Indeed, when I see primped gay boys sitting at coffee shops around Cape Town, with the time to look delicious and lovely, I sometimes ask myself what is different between them and us as we are now? I was never the natty dresser. I was never the theatre diva or the intellectual guru. I have, mostly, just trundled on with my life, and been Gay as well.

But with children, all that calm and relaxed way of life changes in a flash. Because a baby doesn’t care whether you are Gay or not. They are not interested in whether or not you look your best or whether there is anyone out there to impress. Babies want nappies changed and food put in their mouths and sleep. So, Gay or Straight, Lesbian, Transgendered, Bi, whatever ... it really doesn’t matter at all to the child. All they need is love and care. And for that, they pass no judgement on you, just so long as it is there.

Take other things, like Christmas for instance. Pre-children, Christmas was a bit of a sentimental chore. You bought the statutory soap-on-a-rope and you wrapped it, gave it, chewed your way through the turkey and felt stuffed on the pudding. And that was that for another year.

Post-children, it is something else entirely. It starts with lies and threats about what Father Christmas will or won’t bring - round about June – and this rather fatuous attempt at bargaining continues, unrelenting, until the Christmas Eve. And it ends with very expensive plastic toys which seldom make it intact until the end of the day.

But in the middle there is a rediscovered world. A world of involvement and excitement and anticipation. A world before lies are exposed and half-truths suspected. A world where adults are trusted entirely for what they promise. It glitters. It gleams. It shines.

Every year, we have a ceremony, in our house. The Christmas Tree gets dressed. The lights are wound around it, the bells and the baubles and the glitter-encrusted stars are carefully hung on the tree by all of us. And the last thing we do, in this little ceremony of ours, is that the Angel is placed on the top of the tree, by our eldest child, Gabriel, his namesake. And then we all stand back, and we switch on the lights. They twinkle and pulsate. And the sheer magic of Christmas is there again.

Christmas had always seemed to me as a Gay man, to be a celebration of something I would forever be an onlooker to. It is, after all, about a woman giving birth to a child. And this was not something I was reasonably expecting in my life. So I was essentially a voyeur to the whole event. I experienced Christmas from the outside. It was nothing unhappy, but just strangely irrelevant to my life.

That is simply not the case any more. The scales have fallen from my eyes and I have been blessed with another glimpse into the purity of a child’s world. Oh, believe me, it isn’t always sweetness and joy - but for that moment, when we switch on the lights on the Christmas tree and they shine in the eyes of my children, I understand, fleetingly, momentarily, the joy of birth – the hope of the future. Could it be a glimpse of the divine?

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