As the year decelerates towards Christmas, I am dwelling on the magical quality of this time of year; mostly the hiding of secrets and the anticipation of giving presents, not to mention the obligatory defrosting of the freezer and the overwhelming urge to wash things I haven't washed since last Christmas.
And the memories which surface when I write the cards.
I always dig out my ancient Filofax with its soft, yellowing pages, where more names have been crossed out than remain. Most of my newer friends and acquaintances are ethereal, yet strangely brighter and more 'real' than people I once knew in the flesh. These people are fading.
They are ruled through with a stroke of the pen, or at most, a diagonal cross, so I can still see the essential details of a person who is now a stranger. I wonder if my own name - maiden or married - still features in crumbling address books, either crossed out, or obliterated forever with Tippex, or even furiously scribbled into oblivion.
Sadly, some of my people are behind the Biro bars because they have died. Some simply stopped sending me a card. Maybe they discarded card-sending in general, or perhaps they dislike/don't celebrate Christmas anymore. Or maybe they don't like me now. Perhaps they never did!
Over the years, the resurfacing of the Filofax and its dwindling supply of friends has made me feel a little sad, but now it brings a reflective mood, perhaps because I am older, more stoical and less in need of confirmation that I exist in the eyes of others. And perhaps because my life is populated largely with both ethereal and fictional people who keep me company day and night. I can have as many, both in terms of quantity and variety, as I like. And I can set them aside for a while without hurting their feelings.
And there it is - the magic of Christmas. It is about how you make people feel, showing them with gifts, cards, food, drink, or simply your beautiful presence, that you care - or that you don't. Because if you don't, there is magic there too.
The lack of a card might mean crossing out another name, but at least they still feature in the book, consigned to the past now, but solid evidence of the life you have led and those who have enriched it, whether the connection lasted for years or snapped after only a short time.
The loss or lack of a person can become tangible, another thread woven into the tapestry. You and the now-stranger once criss-crossed your lives, component parts of each other's story.
Onto more prosaic matters - the joy of being given a chain belt by an ex-neighbour, Christmas 1970, modelled here with vintage pyjamas and imbued with the power to turn a child into one of Pan's People. I wish I still owned it. I have, however, retained the same hair-style, albeit playing fast-and-loose with the word 'style'. The giver of the chain-belt has long since been crossed out and the memory of her has waned, but I shall never forget her.
And the magic is ever-present in the memory of my brother, his final address in my Filofax still bold behind the sadly drawn line, who would have celebrated his birthday on the twentieth of December. Here we are circa 1963, our personalities clearly drawn - he was older, cooler and busy working out new mischief for us. And I was...well, a bit of a twit. But a happy twit with an imagination - if not much else - that always had a lot of jingle-bells attached and sought out the magic in everything at any time of year, and hopefully, always will.