The comforting familiarity of going home for Christmas

Posted by
Kieran Yates

I like my own bedroom. It consists of plants and stacks of pillows. I buy sheets with a manic fervour and then spread over the memory foam while nestling with a laptop. My bed is my own, and the need to claim this space probably tells you a lot about me.

Coming home for Christmas, I forfeit the luxury of spreading out. My family home is on a small council estate just outside of Birmingham, where I share a bed with my mum. My festive nights are spent chatting, feeling her huffily kick my legs off her, slowly getting more uncomfortable as I’ve physically grown.

As the eldest daughter in a single-parent family, our relationship can be like a partnership – I’m privy to the parental secrets that come out after dark, the wrapping, the Santa biscuits for my once-tiny siblings, preparing food for the morning. 

The forfeit isn’t just one of space. It’s of who I am now and how we regress into old roles: small child, angsty teen, partner. In one night I am all of them – shielding after-dark texts with screen brightness turned all the way down, noticing her age with new snores that didn’t exist in my childhood, frustration as she sets an alarm for 6am to make samosas arranged in the shape of a star (this isn’t all Indians, FYI, just her) and, finally, kissing her forehead as she mutters private prayers to herself in her sleep.

I lie next to her, awake, and think about how at my age she had three kids, how squeezed you can feel by family, how lonely it is without them. Of how I had to once explain that Netflix wasn’t, in fact, “a show that everyone was watching” and how she always asks me if there are “any Princess Diana Christmas films” we can watch. 

We all feel the push and pull of our mums. Mine still interrupts me while I’m trying to watch Top Of The Pops on Christmas Day with the same questions every time (why aren’t you married yet? Why don’t you wear a suit to work?), then dances along to Ed Sheeran.

For me, my Christmas happens in the dead of the night after everyone has left, and I remember that nothing really changes. It’s still me and my mum in one bed when I go home. Her, the superwoman, and me, a little girl still happily squashed, wrapped in her arms.