Christmas is a strange time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love the festive season (carols and After Eights feature on my 'all time greatest things ever' list) but it seems to be the time of the year when we all go a little bit Hollywood-crazy trying to recreate the perfection that we see in films. Maybe it's in the hope that the perfectly decorated house or beautifully wrapped gifts will add a sprinkle of magic to our lives and somehow create the ultimate Christmas moment.
But one thing that I've learnt over my thirty eight years on this planet, is that you can't manufacture a moment. You can have everything perfectly positioned - twinkly lights in abundance, Ella Fitzgerald playing in the background, Prosecco chilling in the fridge and the kids bathed, PJ clad and sitting captivated by the Polar Express - but it still might not a memory make.
I've written before about how easy it is to focus on the big things in life (a fancy night out, a weekend away, a summer holiday, Christmas even) and sometimes, it's at the expense of the smaller moments; moments that might seem a little too everyday or mundane to be cherished.
As I've started to plan what we're going to be doing this December, I've found myself tempted to book every Christmassy event in the North West. But yesterday, I pondered over my lasting memories of this time last year and asked myself which do I look back on most and smile about?
The answer was a surprising one.
On this very day last year, me and the kiddos arrived back in the UK ready to call North Wales our home after living in Switzerland for seven years. It was a great feeling. We spent November and December catching up with people and places and generally having a really lovely, and very busy, time. There are hundreds of memories that should and could stand out but the one that I cherish most is probably the least obvious one.
On our second day back in the UK, I had to go to the solicitor's office with my mum and brother to sort out some property issues. I arrived at the office in a slightly unkempt state having not yet unpacked. Hair a bit of a mess, wearing a jumper with the words 'Merry Christmas, you filthy animal' screaming out from it (just ever so slightly inappropriate). Two very tired but excited boys were with me behaving a little on the wild side (as one and three year olds do). It should have been a relatively boring/slightly stressful bereaucratic appointment - getting documents signed while trying to keep the littles ones from knocking the paperwork all over the floor. It passed in a bit of a haze but I remember standing there, in the same room as my mother and brother, being able to speak in English, smiling at the chaos of the situation and thinking, 'Finally. Finally, I am home.'
It was a moment of absolute giddy joy. A moment that I could never have predicted. A moment that should have been anything but a memorable one. And yet it turned out to be a moment to be savoured. A moment that simply could not have been manufactured.
That pretty normal appointment was a lesson in not pinning my hopes on a perfect moment but instead, a reminder to live for all moments. Good, bad, happy, sad ... they all play their part ... and you really never know which one of them both your head and your heart will remember in years to come.