Home > Opinion > The ghost of Christmases past

Liz Carr

More from Liz Carr

Liz is a crip activist and actor, now trying to gain experience as a stand-up comedian. Originally from the North West, she recently moved to London, lured by the bright lights and the promise of fame and fortune. She's still waiting.

More from Liz Carr

The ghost of Christmases past

16th December 2009

Acquiring a disability aged 7 means that Liz Carr has mixed emotions when it comes to the festive season. She recounts two very different childhood Christmas days.
Liz Carr picking this year's Christmas tree
I have a love / hate relationship with Christmas. I love making cards, decorations and presents for friends and family. As a wheelchair user however, I hate the crowded shops where, more than usual, people’s bags and bottoms are shoved into your face. I love the old Christmas films, the cola advert that heralds the fact that the ‘holidays are coming’ and the fairy lights that are wrapped around practically everything at this time of year. On the other hand, I hate that the festive season begins as soon as Halloween is over, I dread Christmas parties where drunk people invariably make a beeline for the cripple and I really, really hate Santa hats.
Liz holding up a law calendar and wearing the dreaded Santa hat.
As a small child, I loved Christmas. I wrote a letter to Santa, Rudolph ate his carrot ... and the next thing I knew, on December 25th, I’d have a pillowcase full of presents at the end of my bed.

I’d wake up in the early hours, unwrap my fuzzy felts and start munching through my chocolate selection box. We’d go to church to sing carols and then, when my cousins came to visit, I’d race around the house excitedly in my best frock and an oversized paper hat from a Christmas cracker. At 3 o’clock, all the children would sit quietly in front of the TV for the Queen’s speech, because that meant there was only 5 more minutes until the Top of the Pops Christmas Special. After that, everyone would stuff themselves with Turkey, vow not to eat as much next year and then, depending on age, would either have a nap or go and play with their presents.

Every year was the same and every Christmas was a happy one. Once I became a disabled child however, that all changed.
A very young Liz reading a Christmas card
Unable to walk, yet without an electric wheelchair, I would spend most of my waking hours at home, sat in the living room in front of the TV. The only time I’d go to my bedroom was when I was carried upstairs each night. I lived a rather stationary life back then.

This meant that Christmas became a very different experience for me. I still woke up expectantly in the early hours and there was still that pillowcase full of presents at the end of the bed, but now I couldn’t lift my head to look at them, never mind reach them. Santa was a cruel, cruel man. Instead of the frenzied unwrapping of gifts, I lay in bed waiting for my parents to get up. Eventually they’d appear, help me get washed and dressed, carry me downstairs and then presents? No. It was time to start peeling the vegetables for Christmas dinner.

Whilst my parents were busy preparing the meal, I was subjected to what can only be described as ritual humiliation by my older brother. He thought it would be amusing to plonk a red and white Father Christmas hat on my head. He knew I couldn’t reach to take it off. He does it every year. Ho Ho Ho.

When I did finally get a chance to open my presents, my parents had been as generous as ever but the type of gifts they’d bought me were now quite different. Roller skates had been replaced by books, the space hopper had been replaced by books and even the board games that I could have played had been replaced by ... books. Essentialy, after I became disabled, I received a lot of books. Oh, and bedsocks.

Next came the visitors. First, it was the local priest, Father Frank, who turned up to give me a Christmas Blessing. Suspiciously, at the exact same time, my entire family would always disappear to deal with an alleged ‘crisis’ in the kitchen. He laid a little alter out on the coffee table, lit a couple of candles and began to sing Silent Night. It wasn’t all bad; every year he would bring me a present. It was always a book. It was always the same book.

Relatives usually began to arrive around midday and whilst the children ran upstairs to play, the adults would surround me in the living room and tell me how well I was looking. For the rest of Christmas day, I was a child forced to sit in an inner sanctum of adult hood. It was here that I was entrusted with all kinds of family secrets: Aunty Betty had a third degree prolapse, Uncle Michael had been visited by the bailiffs and goose fat is the key to the crunchiest roast potatoes.

I began to enjoy being an honorary adult for the day. Not only did it mean I was privy to classified information but I was also allowed a tipple. My uncle Bernard gave me a snowball, “to put some colour in those cheeks”, my gran poured me a glass of Stout for my blood and then dad offered me a tot of rum for my circulation. By the time The Sound of Music had started, the living room would inevitably be filled with the sound of snoring and at long long last, I would start to feel full of the Christmas spirit.

Comments

    • 1. At 6:35pm on 17 Dec 2009, lyrogersle wrote:

      Thank you, Liz! I became disabled as an adult but our experiences are very much the same. Hope this holiday is joyful for you and your, with or without the spirits.

      Complain about this comment

    • 2. At 6:47pm on 17 Dec 2009, Katie Fraser aka AbleGirl wrote:

      LOL Liz! I loved reading that! I know how you feel, my presents were normally sometimes either socks or educational toys or smellies (were they implying I smelt as child?) LOL!

      Have a great Christmas!

      Complain about this comment

    • 3. At 2:38pm on 20 Dec 2009, redcec wrote:

      Thank you,Liz you have encouraged and struck a cord, i have some courage flying off from your statement on this PC this closing year 2009. I am taking acceptance of whom I am,strong and forward thinking. and empowered.

      Complain about this comment

    • 4. At 9:58pm on 21 Dec 2009, Thrushy wrote:

      that sounds like the croppest Christmas ever! I hope you're having a better time of it now. At least your now able to hang with your peers and get drunk. good thing people grow out of high energy games.

      Complain about this comment

    • 5. At 11:05pm on 22 Dec 2009, Lisy wrote:

      You were clearly a far more intellectual crippled child than me. I didn't get books; I got videos. I wonder why I'm doing a Masters in Film Studies?

      Complain about this comment

    • 6. At 2:05pm on 04 Mar 2010, ckruz wrote:

      This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

      View these comments in RSS

      Bookmark with...

      What are these?

      Live community panel

      Our blog is the main place to go for all things Ouch! Find info, comment, articles and great disability content on the web via us.

      Mat and Liz
      Listen to our regular razor sharp talk show online, or subscribe to it as a podcast. Spread the word: it's where disability and reality almost collide.

      More from the BBC

      BBC Sport

      Disability Sport

      All the latest news from the paralympics.

      Peter White

      In Touch

      News and views for people who are blind or partially sighted.

      BBC Radio 4

      You & Yours

      Weekdays 12.40pm. Radio 4's consumer affairs programme.

      BBC navigation

      BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

      This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.