It‘s 1am on Christmas morning.
I have nibbled the carrots. And I am just biting into my third Turkish delight when I hear “Mummy, what are you doing? That’s for Santa.” She is cross. And I am busted.
I recover quickly and tell her that I am eating Santa’s leftovers. I point out his glitter footprints (that I painstakingly create every year; all the way from the front door to the Christmas tree). I must make sure that the next house we live in has a fireplace. And put the Christmas tree right next to it.
I get away with it. Then she asks if Santa has replied to her letter. I usher her back to bed. And hunt for the letter.
She keeps throwing me these curve balls; the last time I was playing tooth fairy she left a note wanting to know what the fairies did with all the teeth they collected. It took me thirty (long) minutes to come up with we use them to make jewellery for the queen fairy.
It’s late. I hope she hasn’t left too many difficult questions for Santa.
I search the entire living room. And I still can’t find the letter. But that means Santa wouldn’t be able to find it either. So I’m off the hook. I can go to bed.
Then I remember the pile of empty glitter tubes in the bin. Mia mustn’t see them. I go outside to empty the bin. And that’s when I see it; Mia’s letter to Santa. She has taped it to the front door. I must remember to watch her every move before she goes to bed next year.
We have a magical morning. Then head to my brothers for a Turkish Christmas. That is a contradiction in terms. But somehow it works.
My nephew arrives with his (English) girlfriend. Jenny seems understandably overwhelmed by everyone. I introduce myself. And try to make her feel at ease.
She says she didn’t know ‘Kitty’ was a Turkish name. It isn’t.
I explain that it’s a nickname. I was two months premature. And my sister said I looked like a little kitten. Kitten became Kitty. And it stuck. I prefer it to my name (which is virtually unpronounceable).
I’ve always been Kitty. Except for the brief period (as a teenager) when I called myself Courtney. This led to my mother (tearfully) asking me if I was “one of those butch lesbians.”
This confused me somewhat. I told her that I was neither butch nor a lesbian. She responded with “So why are you calling yourself Colin then?” She had taken a call for ‘Courtney’ but somehow heard it as ‘Colin’. Apparently she had been praying for me to be ‘cured’ for weeks.
Jenny laughs. My mother isn’t amused. She glares at us before declaring “And Allah answered my prayers.” Then she turns to poor Jenny “Do you pray?” I can’t save Jenny. But I can save myself. I walk off.
It takes at least fifteen minutes to greet everyone. I go to kiss my elderly aunt. And she practically recoils from me. I was expecting that. She has been treating me like the devil incarnate since the infamous mosque incident (fifteen years ago).
It was my grandmother’s funeral. And my first time at a mosque; I volunteer to wait outside with my little niece. Then she starts crying hysterically. She only stops when I promise to take her to her mother. I plan to get in and out as quickly as possible.
There is a man leading the prayers from behind a white screen. And rows and rows of women; their heads covered with beautiful sheer headscarves. They are praying; going down on their knees, touching the floor with their foreheads and getting back up again.
I am fascinated. It looks like an overdressed low impact aerobics class.
My niece runs to her mother. And I turn to leave. But I am grabbed by that aunt. She throws a coat over my head. Then forcibly drags me into line and gestures to me to start praying.
I know this is the one time and place where I really can’t cause a scene. So I try to comply. But I am totally out of synch. Up when they are all down. And down when they are all up.
The winter coat over my head is heavy. It keeps falling down over my eyes. I stumble into my aunt. She falls and pulls the woman in front of her down too. Then I land on top of them.
I have given up trying to persuade my aunt to see the funny side of it (and visually, it really is hilarious).
I manage to land a kiss on her cheek before she swats me away. And starts muttering “tovbe, tovbe” (“forgive her for her sins”).
We eat in three sittings; turkey with all the trimmings (and shish kebab). Then everyone squeezes into the living room to pay tribute to my parents on their fiftieth wedding anniversary. My brother presents them with an engraved plaque. My father makes a very moving speech.
Then my mother decides to tell us all about their wedding night.
She explains that the entire village would wait outside the marital home for proof of the bride’s virginity. This would come in the form of a white bed sheet being hung from the window.
She laughs as she prepares to deliver the punch line; they had sex "many times" before they were married. So my father had snuck in a pigeon, slit its throat and used its blood for the sheet.
I find her little anecdote disturbing on so many levels.
My aunt is horrified. And starts with the whole“tovbe,tovbe” thing again. Everyone is shocked into silence. My father is mortified.
I must do something to break the tension. I pick up the remote, point it at the CD player and press play.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” blares out.
My mother leaps up, pulls my father to his feet and shouts “Dance with me!” She stumbles back on to the sofa. And pulls my father down on top of her. Then she giggles like a little girl. This is very odd behaviour. Even for my mother.
My father is a very proud man who has an innately regal air about him. And he is clearly distressed by her antics. He stands up, smoothes down his jacket and straightens his tie.
She is still giggling. Then she kicks her legs up in the air and gives us all a glimpse of her knickers.
My sister picks up my mother’s glass. And takes a sip of her orange juice “Who gave her this?” My nephew is trying to sneak out of the door.
He has been giving her alcopops. She would never knowingly drink alcohol. My father slaps him around the head.
I grab Mia and make a timely exit. She declares that “this has been the best Christmas, ever!” It’s certainly been a memorable one.
We get home and there is a letter shoved halfway through the letter box. It’s from Anthony. I open the door. And find a small gift wrapped box on the mat. I pick it up and throw it in the bin; along with the letter. I’ve had quite enough drama for one Christmas.
It‘s 1am on Christmas morning.