Thought the virus spoiled your big day? Then read round two of a simmering mother-daughter ding-dong… Covid made Christmas even worse than I feared!
Roll on 2022 and good riddance to Christmas. The past week has been one of the most stressful of my life and it’s all thanks to our country’s obsession with Christmas.
Or am I the only one with a mother who won’t let anything — not common sense and certainly not Covid — stand in the way of a huge family dinner?
Earlier this month, I wrote in these pages how my family was at war over Christmas. My mum was determined to invite anti-vaxxer relatives along, hoping to cram us all into her overheated farmhouse as usual.
My sister, Chloe, 32, and I were dead against it. We’ve made massive sacrifices over the past two years to keep ourselves and our families safe.
Ironically, Mum used to be terrified of catching Covid. She refused to go to crowded places and was fanatical about forcing everyone to sanitise their hands. But then December 1 dawned and it was like she had a personality transplant. Come hell or high water, she was going to ‘do’ Christmas for everyone.
Rebecca Tidy vents her frustration after contracting Covid before Christmas Day. Pictured: Rebecca with mum Sue
I had no idea that the drama was only just kicking off.
At first, as Christmas approached, it all began to look up. Mum announced she had found the perfect compromise: she would see our wider family at the church carol concert on Sunday, December 19 and then host my sister and me along with various vaccinated relatives on Christmas Day.
I was relieved, but wary. The service at our lovely little Methodist church has always been a big part of our family Christmases. However, there was no way I was going this year because I know just how crowded it can get. Mum normally looks after my daughter, Mabel, on Sundays so I can work. But, for the same reason, I didn’t want Mabel going.
Mabel, now three, was born prematurely and spent time on a ventilator. She’s only recently gained enough weight to be considered healthy.
Mum was quick to reassure me. ‘Oh no, I am sure it will all be outside,’ she said. ‘We’ll be fine.’
Famous last words. It turned out the concert was inside the church as usual. Mum, her anti-vaxxer relatives and scores of other villagers stood shoulder to shoulder, masks abandoned as they sang heartily. Right in the middle of it all was Mabel.
She came home that night hugely excited and with a hacking cough. By morning, she was having trouble breathing. It was hard for me to get a proper lateral flow test sample, but I’m convinced she had contracted Covid.
Next, my 84-year-old grandma, who was also at the carol concert, woke up feeling hot and shivery. A lateral flow test was positive. She was terrified. So were we. Although she had received her booster jab, her age left her very vulnerable. I felt helpless and was seething with rage as I listened to Mabel fighting for breath.
Rebecca claims her mother accused her of ‘ruining Christmas’ and suggested that she was faking having Covid to avoid being in the same room as an anti-vaxxer. Pictured: Rebecca with daughter Mabel
By December 21, several of our other relatives had Covid, including one vehement anti-vaxxer who became seriously ill.
And so — to my intense fury — was I. I had Covid in March 2020 after a work trip to the Channel Islands, where I shared a hotel with Chinese exchange students. I was unbelievably ill for weeks.
This time, having been double vaccinated, I did not expect to be so unwell. But I knew the signs immediately and a lateral flow test confirmed my worst fears.
Of course, it meant Christmas Day at Mum’s was a no-no. After all the drama, this was one bright spot. Mabel and I could enjoy a lovely, quiet day at home.
I rang Mum, hacking down the phone. If I was expecting sympathy, I was sorely mistaken. Mum’s first reaction was to shout. ‘You’ve ruined Christmas,’ she snapped. ‘I’ve cancelled my family for you and now you’ve contracted Covid. All my hard work has been for nothing. I do so much and no one is ever grateful.’
Mum seemed to blame it squarely on me. ‘You should have been more careful when you went shopping at Waitrose,’ she said.
To cap it all, she then seemed to suggest I was faking having Covid because I was paranoid about finding myself in the same room as an anti-vaxxer. I was so angry, I slammed the phone down and rang my sister to vent.
Like me, Chloe, who has a one-year-old daughter, thinks Mum is nuts. Like me, she was secretly relieved to be let off the hook and avoid a fraught family Christmas.
Rebecca said she spent Christmas Day sipping orange juice out of a plastic mug and praying for the moment she could go back to bed. Pictured: Rebecca with Sue and Mabel
We love Mum to bits, but she’s opinionated and so are we.
That evening Mum texted: ‘I hope you and Mabel are still coming on Christmas Day. I have disinvited everyone for you.’ Still seething, I ignored her. And I honestly didn’t intend to go. But then I thought about Mabel. She loves my mum and was excited about seeing my sister and her baby. And, if I’m honest, I felt too unwell to entertain her.
Perhaps it was mean but I left Mum on tenterhooks until Christmas Eve. ‘I’ll come if I test negative in the morning,’ I said with all the enthusiasm I could muster.
And that’s how I found myself in Mum’s sitting room on Christmas Day, sweat pouring off me, sipping orange juice out of a plastic mug and praying for the moment I could go back to bed.
Grandma, who had also tested negative that day, looked peaky. My sister, her husband and their baby all had hacking coughs.
Despite Mum’s efforts, everyone was too exhausted from a mixture of Covid and the drama of the past few weeks to eat much.
We normally drink gallons of champagne, but no one felt like alcohol. And, while I know Mum was pleased to have me and my sister with her, it definitely wasn’t the Christmas she had hoped for.
Our vaccinated relatives had cried off on Christmas Eve, claiming they had tested positive, too. I suspect they were wary about venturing into Covid Central, as I nicknamed Mum’s house.
Sue suspects that none of her family has been sanitising their hands enough, but revealed she’s eager to do something in the New Year. Pictured: Sue with Rebecca
Looking at their unopened presents piled up was depressing. But on the bright side, Mum is happy the anti-vaxxers have no hard feelings.
So much so that she’s even talking about bringing out all the leftover food from the freezer for a celebration on New Year’s Day.
Somehow, she and her partner Terry have avoided getting Covid. She argues now that so many of us have had it, where’s the harm?
I, for one, won’t be attending the New Year’s get together.
Mum sue says: I honestly thought I’d found the perfect compromise when I arranged to meet my family at the big carol service at our local chapel. The windows and doors were all flung open — to the point where we were all almost frozen to death.
And the chapel was so full, I couldn’t sit near my anti-vaxxer relatives anyway. In the end, I just waved to them across the room.
As it turns out, my mother fell ill the next day, as did a few others. But it’s completely ridiculous to blame the carol service. They could have caught Covid anywhere.
Quite frankly, I expect none of the family has been sanitising their hands enough.
And I know full well that Mabel’s nursery has had kids off with chest infections and flu since September. So I suspect that is the much more likely cause.
It was lovely to have my daughters and granddaughters with me on Christmas Day but, in the end, it wasn’t the wonderful, exciting time I’d hoped for.
I think we all felt a bit exhausted and down in the dumps, which is why I’m eager to do something in the New Year.
I just want to see everyone and hug them again.
Interviews by Tessa Cunningham