Christmas memories of good friends who became family. I hope they knew how much they meant to me / Sue Plunkett column
One of the best memories I have from my childhood at Christmas is the joy of putting the tree up on my birthday, December 21st.
My parents delayed doing it until then so I could have one day with my birthday cards on display without tinsel everywhere!
Those of you who share a December birthday will know where I am coming from.
Decorating the tree on my birthday felt like a very special treat and we continued the tradition until I was about 21.
Christmas does make you nostalgic and every year I always remember the highlight was when we spent Boxing Day with our good friends, the Dawson family.
Annually, for 25 years or more, from when I was five, we made the trip to their home just outside Bradford in Yorkshire, whatever the weather. Nothing could keep us from getting there.
It was a huge, beautiful house with a roaring fire and a table laden with food, all home cooked by Mrs Dawson.
We wore our best outfits as we sat down for our Christmas meal, pulled crackers and wore silly hats. And Mr Dawson always had a new wine for the adults to try.
After the meal it was present time and I still remember the excitement and anticipation as the Dawsons were so generous with their gifts. One year they bought me a camera. It was the latest one complete with little square flashes that you had to attach to the camera for indoor shots. This was the 1970s remember!
The Dawsons had two daughters, Yvonne and Michelle. Yvonne was a couple of years older and always very sophisticated and ladylike. Unlike Michelle and I, who would giggle together like a pair of idiots.
After our meal the card table was set up for my parents to thrash out a few games of whist with Mr Dawson while the rest of us watched Christmas films and stuffed our faces with chocolate.
How I enjoyed those times. And not because of the lavish presents and food (although they were rather amazing).
It was because they were like family to us, I felt so at home with them. When I was 10 and my mum was in hospital and my dad was working I went to stay with the Dawsons and they were so kind and caring.
Mrs Dawson hugged me when I got upset and cried as my missed my family and Mr Dawson took Michelle and I to the local fair every night for a week after we badgered him!
The Dawsons were there for me with love, support and help when my parents died within three years of each other. Mr Dawson was one of those people who everyone went to for advice and guidance. He was wise and intelligent but was not afraid to tell you the truth, even if it hurt
I have so many happy memories of the Christmasses we shared, along with the holidays and times I spent staying with them during the summer holidays.
I look back and don't think I ever really thanked Mr and Mrs Dawson, who have sadly both passed on now.
Every year at Christmas I always raise a glass to them. I hope they knew how much they meant to me.