All good things must come to an end.
This yuletide I will receive my last ever mum-made Christmas stocking. If you don't have a tissue to hand, I suggest you grab one; this is going to be emotional.
Every year since I can remember, I've woken up on Christmas day to a giant sock full of joy to paw my way through. I will never forget the excitement of getting up in the middle of the night and daring to pop out onto the landing for a cheeky feel of the stocking that Father Christmas had filled so quietly before presumably letting himself out the front door (we didn't have a chimney). There's nothing better than prodding the corner of a box that's poking out from the wool and wondering – is it a toy? Is it a puppy? It was always more likely it was a box of tissues to be honest, but guessing was half the fun.
I'm one of three – the only girl between two brothers – and for years we would beg our mum to pleeeeeeeeease let us get up to rifle through our stockings before the sun had even thought about putting his hat on. When we were FINALLY allowed to dig into our stockings (at the unbearably late hour of 7am) we'd fight for mum's attention as we showed her "Mum, mum! Father Christmas got me a football scarf!" "How did he know I like Percy Pigs? He is SO clever!" It must be such a pain for parents to have to to let some fictional fat bloke take credit for all their hard work for so many years. Thinking about it now, it does seem unlikely that an elderly gentleman would be quite that good at selecting nail varnish for me.
And as we grew up, the mystery of where our presents came from gradually started to diminish. And my mum – queen of the bargain hunters – took the opportunity to let us in on the money saving scheme that no doubt many parents required to fill three stockings the size of people, provide a turkey dinner and purchase a room full of gifts each year have to adopt: buying it all in the January sales. If I'd wanted to find out what would be in my stocking this year, all I needed to do was to hang around in the Marks and Spencer Final Reductions aisle for a couple of days last January and I'd probably have spotted every item. But where's the fun in that? One year she did take possibly a little too much pleasure in telling people that the scarf I was wearing was 50p in the M&S sale and saying "You wouldn't pay full price for it, would you?!" to anybody who would listen, but there's no denying that that definitely is a very good price.
But now we're grown-ups and our stockings are about to have their very last outing. I'm 28 and married, my older brother is 30 and partial to a beer or 12 on Christmas Eve (and therefore less so to an early Christmas morning) and my allegedly 'little' brother is actually 24 and equally tricky to rouse. Whilst I know that mum could shop for me forever, the boys are getting harder and harder to buy for, and in the interests of avoiding turning stockings into a woolly packaged grocery delivery, I think it's best we put an end to them now.
My mum has done a marvellous job of being Father Christmas for the past 30 years but now it's time to shave off her beard and walk hand in hand together into the next phase of Christmas time – where the festive season is no longer simply dedicated to the purchasing of presents for the three of us.
See, I told you you'd need tissues.
Charlotte Buxton is a freelance writer living in London. She runs a lifestyle blog Nothing Good Rhymes With Charlotte where she publishes a weekly column about relationships, growing up, things that get on her nerves, and anything else that might get a laugh.