What can I tell you about Christmas 2015? I could talk all about how amazing it was to have it in our very own house for the first time. I could wax lyrical about how well behaved everyone was,both small and large members of the family, and how it was the first Christmas since circa 1986 that there wasn’t a major bust up.
I could confess about how I didn’t feel one bit guilty about prodding the minis awake at just after 7am (I had been unable to sleep from about 5.30 onwards-who’s the bigger kid, eh?).
I could let you know all about how we went back to more traditional turkey and ham for the main meal, instead of the goose and duck we had been favouring these past few Christmasses and that how even 5 days after the main event, I still can’t get enough of them! (Yes, I know technically all meat should have been binned yesterday in accordance with the advice from Safe Food, but it’s delicious, shut up, stop judging me!!!)
I could go on about all these things but the one thing that made Christmas for me this year wasn’t the terrific spread (it’s the one time of year where having a chef in the family really comes into its own!), or the gorgeous presents I nabbed-seriously cleaned up this year!-or the excitement that has been doubled by having two kids old enough to have an appreciation of the big man in the red suit or even the luck I felt at sitting down to a table full of healthy relatives. No, what was absolutely amazing was the two and a half hours I spent freezing my arse off at Blackrock in Salthill, collecting for Voices for Down Syndrome Galway.
Some helpful background info-every Christmas morning, people in Galway (and many other parts of the country) lose the run of themselves and decide to plunge into the brass monkey’s territory that is the Atlantic ocean. Some do it for charity, some for the pure hell of it. Regular readers of the blog will know about Mini’s speech and language therapy group, called Voices for Down Syndrome Galway. They’re an amazing group who provide language services for all children and adults with Down syndrome in county Galway. Even more amazing, they do so with zero government funding. It falls to the parents to carry the can and raise the money necessary for supporting such a project-approx €130,000 per annum.
Last Christmas was the first time I had taken over the organising of the event. I had answered a call from the chairperson looking for help with the swim. I texted that I would be interested in lending a hand. She rang me back to say that no other parents had gotten back to her and would I be able to organise the whole thing myself. Now, it goes without saying that I have zero organisational skills and PR and marketing are not exactly my strong suits. But I always loved the idea of the charity Christmas swim and people are generous around the festive season so I didn’t want us to lose a well paying gig so to speak. So I rounded up some volunteers (AKA my ever obliging family), the Frenchman got his hands on some burko boliers to dispense teas, coffees and hot chocolates to the hardy swimmers and the visiting public and off we went.
The weather gods were kind to us last year. The day was absolutely stunning. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling, having fun, giving money! I smiled to myself and thought, oh yes, this is an event I can happily get behind every year.
So fast forward 12 months, and we’re in the midst of winter storm hell. And now we live not five minutes but 35 minutes drive from the beach, actually 45 minutes when you take into account the diversions due to floods and road closures. But we’ve committed to this, so early on Christmas morning, we load the teas, coffees, buckets, t-shirts, and leave the warm, cosy house full of excited minis and contented grandparents behind and set off under the loaded skies.
On the way to Salthill, I’ve got my internal grumble turned up to 11. I’m thinking how unfair it is that we parents of children with special needs have to give so much of our time just to make sure our kids get the vital services they need. By the time we get to Blackrock, I’m fuming, fuelled up on stewed thoughts. There’s no time to dwell, however, as volunteers-our friends and colleagues are already waiting for us, bless them. They’ve given up their Christmas morning to spend it fundraising with us.
The rain keeps on coming, but so do the people-smiling, filling our buckets. The wet weather can’t dampen our spirits. This is what Christmas is all about, I realise. It’s that indefatigable human spirit of doing good. We get a lot of things wrong as a race, but feck it, if we don’t get a lot of things right! In those two and a half hours, we raised nearly €1600 for our chosen charity. €443 extra came from our amazing, hardy swimmers and we’ve got more sponsorship cards to come!Humans rock!
So although it’s a bit late, let me say to all you lovely humans, Happy Christmas and all the best to you for 2016!