One Boxing Day was so much like another, in those years of small responsibility and not much to worry about.
All the Boxing Days roll into one as I remember pitter-pattering barefoot down the stairs to grab a bowl of cereal and the leftover tangerine from Santa’s stocking. It was quiet but not exactly peaceful with all the presents scattered around the living room still to put away but this was still technically Christmas for me and the rest of the family were asleep so why bother rushing?
I would eat my small breakfast by the computer table, turning the swivel chair to see the heated trays on the dining table just behind me, still full of vegetable spring rolls and prawn vol-au-vents. The greasy smell pervading from the kitchen would remind me that there was still the Beef Wellington to finish, something I had nibbled at the previous night rather than scoffed. However, if the stringy brown slices were to be put in a buttered bread bun that day, I wouldn’t say no.
Once the last segment of tangerine had been swallowed, down came mother who was then followed by sister and eventually father. We would find there wasn’t really much left to say after all the exuberant ‘thank you’s of yesterday so we would instead begin a slow and steady tidy up of the living room.
All my presents: books, DVDs and action figures would be dumped on my bed where I would fiddle with them some more and lose a good twenty minutes contemplating the points of articulation of this Doctor Who figure or really how little I wanted to watch this film that I asked for in earnest.
Then I would dress myself properly, brush my teeth and descend the stairs to find the kitchen occupied with the whirr of the oven heating up leftovers and maybe the hob being click-click-clicked on. The kettle would already be boiled for the parents and perhaps my sister but I would have what was left of the milk bottle once the teas and coffees had all been poured.
Food would then be transported back to the heated trays on the dining room table and we would stack a small china plate each with those spring rolls and vol-au-vents as well as mini-pizzas, breadsticks and crisps. I would always fill up with more crisps than substantial food and had a tendency, when eating battered shrimp, to swallow the tail too.
Then, when I was fit to burst and queasy with all the salt and grease, I would supplant myself on the toilet for a long stretch, both out of necessity and for the me time. If it occurred to me, I may have even started reading one of my presents even if that was only the back of a DVD box.
Outside wasn’t usually worth visiting, a stiff white sky that occasionally cracked and let through a fine winter drizzle. Still, with all the hustle and bustle indoors, any chance to step out was ultimately a good thing even if I only managed to snatch a handful of shallow breaths of chill air. Then I would return to find everyone in the living room, watching whatever animated feature was on, Dreamworks often after Disney. There would be some buzz as the TV guide was handed round, at the prospect of the special episode of whatever show was popular at the time being on that evening. We would set our eating schedule around that then break off from family time, some of us to wash up, some of us to tidy away presents, and me to visit the toilet once again.
I often lost track of time, Boxing Day being so slow, and I would look up and wonder why I was being called back downstairs. Then I would wander into the kitchen to find Beef Wellington slices being packed into bread buns and found that that would be the main course for dinner. Of course, it did turn out to be dinnertime or perhaps half an hour earlier than usual.
I would hunker down and eat, grabbing a fresh plateful of snack foods to fill out the meal, watching whatever was on the telly before returning to the kitchen to begin washing up. We didn’t have a dish washer for a long time so it was up to me and my sister to make sure the fancy wine glasses we only ever brought out at Christmas were sparkling clean and ready to return to the dusty wooden display cabinet. Then father would empty out the heated trays and give us them for ‘a quick wipe’ but I always gave them more attention, at least until there were no visible suds left. Then, if the snacks were sufficiently depleted, the trays and the heater were all boxed up and put at the very top of a tall set of shelves. Dad would deal with this, with some assistance from me when I was tall enough.
Then in the gathering dark, we would seat ourselves in front of the TV once again and spend a little more time watching the latest DFS sale advert and glancing around at the Christmas decorations, determining when they were to be taken down and in what order.
By now I had opened my chocolate selection box and started working my way through a mini bag of Maltesers and perhaps a single Twix bar because there really was little else to do. Boxing Day didn’t make much sense when it came down to it, other than to be a transition day between Christmas and shops re-opening. The older I got the more I realised the disappointing mayfly that Christmas Day was, after the long run-up, after the hysteria those same shops and the TV had caused. It seemed a lot of exhaustion for a short period where presents were torn open and expectations were met. And Boxing Day? That was merely the day when the wrapping paper was stuffed into the recycling bin.
Nevertheless Boxing Day got away from me soon enough and I was back to bed, watching a film I had recorded instead of one of the DVDs that had been gifted to me. When that was over, I muttered some happy nonsense about doing things better next year, and then I slept.