The decorations were up along the main street, red tinsel twinkled in the sun by the statue of Trooper Jack. I’d finished bottling the elderflower champagne, no explosions yet, but two bottles lost to over-enthusiastically malleting the capper; was off to buy labels when I heard singing, and turned to see a grandad dandling (who wouldn’t like to be dandled, unless it was out a 40-story window) a toddler on his knee outside a café, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth…”
‘All I want for Christmas’ I thought, is to be able to afford a trip to the hair dressers, I look like Pepe le Pew. But do I want that so much? I’m a lot less vain these days, still peruse mirrors, but more like a patron fascinated by an art installation designed to erode; checking to see what else has fallen off. I ran out of my favourite lipstick ages ago and never replaced it, bought a truck load of gravel instead. My face does things that Botox could prevent, but I like it, reliably there on top of my neck. Last Christmas (feel a Wham! song coming on?) I was less a person than a shape shifter, a series of complex calculations, and we all go through life being what we assume others want us to be, saying what we think we’re expected to say, unless something comes along to change things and we start being real, the way the elderly are, “I’ve never liked you, Isabelle, you have a fat arse” – because they know time is short. All I really want for Christmas is for my daughter to be nice to me.
My Purakanui tiny home is finally finished and ready Airbnb. A little bit Hotel California except you can leave, after a minimum two-night stay, the bach came to represent my mental health during the renovations, parallel as they were to my own, so the first guests will be living inside my mind, a much sunnier place than in the days when I lay face down on the Axminister sobbing while tradesmen came and went, leaving bills that demonstrated the true cost of learned helplessness. Last Christmas Day I was on the road from Cape Reinga to Whangarei, everything closed, feeling like Mary after Joseph forgot to book something, starving while a fat bald Welshman who’d told me he was single sent me photos of his lavish four course repast. My Christmas dinner was an Angus burger eaten in a Motel 6 next door to the McDonalds. Squashing the wasp in my bed, I went to sleep as the broken crosswalk down the road blipped ‘cross now cross now….’ full of hope for a future that never happened because realistic wasn’t a part of it. Some people are like computers, you’ve got to punch instruction into them.
It’s been a year of surprises. A year of going over the handlebars, getting knocked out by falling doors and learning to do things by/for myself. I am a very slow learner. I’ve learned, by painful increments, that having enough to eat, enough money to pay the bills, enough know-how to make and mend instead of buying new is more important than whingeing about the things you had and lost. “All I want is happiness,” said MMM, “And a new backpack.” The Maverick Mountain Man has a dreadful backpack addiction. There are backpacks in the garage, backpacks under the spare bed, leaning up against wall, flaps out like disembowelled little people, arm straps dangling. “They’re not all the same, they have different functions. I have my snowboard backpack, one for carrying mountaineering gear … I don’t have a going-to-town backpack.” Its time he faced facts, stopped living in denial. His search history is full of backpacks, it’s disgusting. I used to be the same with clothes: suffered the covetous diamond-eyed gleam of designer dress love, shop-window-licking yearning. Now I sell them off one at a time, like stamps from exotic countries, and use the money to buy cheese.
There’s a big difference between the things you want and the things you need in life. And when farmers are killing themselves because they can’t afford the interest on loans the banks so wantonly extended, any life is good. If you’re breathing, that’s enough, it doesn’t require wrapping. The things I want these days are in my power to have, and if they aren’t, I’m pretty sure I don’t need them. I hope that all you want is what you already have, too.