On the 6th day of Christmas

December 6

There’s nothing quite like an evocative Christmas story to get you in the festive mood. Today we have this thought-evoking short tale by Laura Reynolds.

Walking through the square, shoppers bustling everywhere, it hit her. Christmas really was coming. Of course, James had been going on about it for weeks. What they should buy Ben, what he could buy her, even hinting about the new camera he wanted. She had tried to feign enthusiasm, she had to. She couldn’t tell him the truth, that she hated Christmas, he just wouldn’t understand. And it was Ben’s first Christmas too, she couldn’t ruin it for him.

“Red tuck, mummy! Red tuck!” Her son’s voice cut through her thoughts, but James got there first. “Yes son, red truck, that’s what we’ve come to see.”

Then she saw it too. The beaming headlights and Americanised silver front hit her first, but as she rounded the corner she saw the infamous image of Santa winking down at her, all rosy cheeks and beaming smiles.

Looking into those wicked eyes, she was back there. December 1995. She was eight. Her parents were in the kitchen, arguing over something or other. Money probably. The sound of plates being thrown, a scream, and then a few seconds of silence before the fighting started again. She turned up the TV so that she didn’t have to hear it, and the jingle blared back at her. “Holidays are coming, holidays are coming…”

“You alright love? You’ve gone awfully quiet.” She was back in the town square with James and Ben, and Ben was loving it. He’d always loved lorries, cars, anything with wheels. She looked again, the twinkling outline of the lorry framing a picture that for her was more sinister than anything the rest of the crowd were seeing.

December 2002. Her tiny little room at her aunt’s house. It was good of her aunt to take her in after everything that had happened with her parents, she knew that, but the room was small. Nevertheless, like any self-respecting 15-year-old, she had insisted on squeezing a TV into the little space she had. She was on the phone to Tom, and the signal wasn’t great, that much she could remember, but it was good enough for her to get the message loud and clear; he wasn’t coming back. Cue the advert, with happy families, a beaming Santa, and of course, the music “Holidays are coming, holidays are coming…” Not for her they weren’t, this was just going to be one more rubbish Christmas in a long line, more people letting her down.

The crowd were moving, and people were getting into a queue for photos. As they moved around, she could see the full thing, in all it’s damning glory.

December 2007. Greenwich East Hospital. Gran was ill, really ill. They all knew she wouldn’t make it to Christmas day, so the whole family went down to the hospital and they had their own Christmas, a couple of weeks early. Gran had always loved Christmas, and she was adamant that a little thing like death was not going to prevent her from celebrating it one last time.  There were presents, and crackers, and sweets. Everyone was trying to be jolly, for Gran’s sake, and for the kids, but it was hard.  She’s looked up at the tiny hospital TV at one point, and the advert had been on. The TV was muted,  so she didn’t have to endure the song, but Santa was there, as always, winking back at her, as if he was revelling in her misery, and the misery of her whole family, as if he knew that the inevitable was just around the corner.

“Mummy, it’s Santa! Look!” She was back in the present with Ben and James, and this time she was here to stay. She looked at James, the way he was so good with Ben, their son, and the way he looked at her with nothing but love in his eyes. She realised that for the first time, she was happy at Christmas. She looked back at the lorry. It didn’t scare her anymore, she realised, although it had been a constant feature in all those bad Christmasses in the past. Ben was transfixed by it. It was time to let the bad memories go, and make sure that future Christmasses were about the three of them, and their happiness. But she still knew that she would never drink a can of Coke.

Laura says: For me, the best bit about Christmas is the build up to it. When Christmas lights go up around town, I get really excited. I also love an excuse to bake gingerbread men, decorate the tree, and listen to Christmas music.’

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