Saint Columba’s College English website is carrying a series called ‘Everybody writes’. The theme of the anonymous posts is Christmas past and yesterday’s post had a rather too familiar feel about it:
‘D’you think it will snow this year?’ I looked out through the huge parallel windows at the front of the house and pressed my fingers against the nearly-not-there glass.
‘Don’t touch the windows, you’ll get grease marks all over them,’ Mum said, and I drew my hand back.
‘Of course it won’t snow,’ Dad said, dismissing my eight year-old hopes. ‘It’s too warm to snow here.’
My dreams were shattered. But it couldn’t put a dampener on the celebrations. The table was set with our once-a-year best silver, the tree twinkled with yellow lights, and the presents poked their heads shyly from beneath it. It was Christmas Eve. There was nothing that could make me sad now.
I went to bed early, but as always strived to stay awake to see the elusive Santa. My parents kept poking their heads around the door, only to see my eyes wide and gleaming in the dark. ‘If you’re not asleep before midnight you’ll turn into a pumpkin!’ It was my Dad’s favourite myth, but I did not shut my eyes.
Eventually I fell into an uneasy slumber, waking up in the middle of the night to trip over a filled stocking. I had missed the man in the red coat again! My brother and I got up as early as possible to run downstairs to see our presents – and the mysterious absence of the mince pie, the glass of sherry, the apple for the reindeer (my parents always said that by the time he got to our house he’d want a pick-me-up). But the curtains were shut, and the best sight was yet to come. Dressed to go out to church, I stepped over the threshold to see –
‘It snowed!’ Only the tips of the grass could be seen through the thin white layer. I tried to step on as little as possible, but scooped up a handful to throw at my brother.
‘Stop that,’ my Dad warned.
I looked at him. ‘Told you it would snow.’
He looked up and away, taking the ‘I’m-an-important-adult’ stance. ‘It’ll be gone in an hour.’
But it didn’t matter. I was eight, the air was clean and crisp, the sky was blue, the ground crunched underfoot. It was Christmas.
It really didn’t matter.
If we could see ourselves as others see us. Who is that old grouch of a dad? Oh dear, oh dear.