artist advent calendar : tif fussell

My name is Tif (aka dottie angel), I’m a Brit living abroad with my clan in a Mossy Shed.

I love Christmas, no two ways about it... I like to imagine the run up to Christmas is all about me in the kitchen, home baking, laughing, spreading glee and my children by my side, smiling and marveling at my edible creations. Sadly this has never been the case. Usually it’s me thinking “oh crappity crap” ten days left, and I haven’t even ventured out into the real world to search for gifts. With four children at Christmas and then two born the following days, this my dears, is cutting it too fine even for myself. But as I type, I am taking deep breaths and telling myself all will be well, for my mother arrives from Old Blighty on Tuesday… and there is nothing quite like my mother for making things ‘a okay’.

When growing up with my three brothers, our Christmases were magical, my parents going to great lengths to make it a lovely, magical time.

On dec 26th 1991, when i became a mother, it was my turn to share the wonders and joys of this time of year. Over the next six years we added three more to our brood and in the blink of an eye they are no longer little… this year, when my daughter turns eighteen I know I will feel most melancholy, remembering the Christmases of past. Knowing this will be our last Christmas as a family living under the same roof makes me rather wistful. She spreads her wings next summer and once those wings are spread coming home to roost becomes less likely... i fear, my nest will feel quite empty

But enough of these melancholies, for Christmas is a time of great joy and gleefulness, made even more so by homemade decorations strung around our shed. When the children were younger they would be in charge of this, and a fine job they did of it. Now as they are older, it is more about me making the decorations and hanging it up, whilst they all look on with thoughts of “what is she doing now… not more doilies!”. This year I am living a handcrafted secondhand year, so the Shed has been decked out in lots of recycled and found ‘goodness’, causing controversy to say the least, especially where the tree is concerned.

When we moved to the States in 2000 our first Christmas was rather lonely and quiet without the extended family, thus we set about making a few extra traditions so instead of looking back at what had been, we started to look forward to what will be. My favorite ‘new tradition’ is going out late on Christmas Eve to the movies, having spent weeks debating which movie to see, we bundle up and head out. We rarely go to the movies, so this is seen as a real treat. On the way home we drive past all the pretty homes lit up, twinkling in the dark night. On arriving back at the Shed, shining in her coat of fairy lights, a beer is put out for Santa because we all know that Santa loves a beer, our stockings are hung on bedroom doors and then we all go to bed, lying awake for ages hoping to hear sleigh bells.

Every year as my children have got older they ask “does Santa really exist?”

Every year I reply just as my mother did, “If you don’t believe then it doesn’t happen”.

Perhaps that is why every year, Christmas is a gleeful time for me, a time for family, my dubious cooking, last minute gifts, pesky gnomes visiting, birthdays and as the years go by, melancholy moments… watching home movies of my children ‘young and believing’, wishing with all my heart I could make time stand still.

And perhaps that is why after 41 years I still believe. After all, every year a small miracle occurs in our Mossy Shed, Christmas with all it’s wonder and gleefulness happens and all it took was a little bit of believing on my behalf…

Thank you Tif for your wonderous post - you are an inspiration!!