The month of December saw a cornucopia of gatherings, each one momentous in its own way. I had been dreading the enormity of the season, how I could survive a significant birthday on my own and create a special christmas for my boys as a single mum, how I could ensure the days unwrapped as layers of reassuring old traditions and exciting new ones.
My 40th birthday was spent with dear friends in a rather lovely Sheffield hotel and spa, starting with raised glasses in their champagne bar and ending with room service as we all devoured chunky chips on my bed at 2am. My friends are my chosen family and feel like sisters to me. I'm lucky to have their love and support and hope in time I give as much as I receive.
The school term ended with lively class parties (Now 83 is etched in my aural memory forever) christmas lunches and even saw Father Christmas making a guest appearance. The staff de-tinselled their classrooms and put away the tree for another year as the children made their way home on that last day. We all felt suitably festive after performing as a 'teacher choir' to the great surprise and delight of the children and parents at the annual Carol concert.
The last few days have been a genuinely happy time and the look on my boys' faces as they told me they'd had 'the best Christmas ever' as we sat back after a Boxing Day bike ride was worth so much. When they are visiting their Dad I miss them terribly and count the hours until they come back home, but in time I hope they will settle in to this new way of living. By listening to the needs of my two precious boys, I do hope they had a happy Christmas. I know I have had the calmest and most pleasant Christmas in a very long time.
Being alone in a room full of people resonates with me still, but with the kindness and love of those closest to me, I know me and my boys have now come through the other side of a particularly difficult time.
Life goes on. Change happens. It's how you change to meet those new challenges that makes or breaks you. I still find myself locked in old memories but in time, my new happier memories will be the ones that make me smile.
This month I discovered I was not a single mum at all, nor was I on my own. I learned that I exist within the love and support of my friends and family - even my work colleagues have proved that they are just a whisper away - I just need to find the courage to ask for help. My friends and family gently pulled me along with them this season and we spent time together eating, drinking, dancing, playing and building those new traditions we will now enjoy year on year.