A Christmas Tale

Dec 19, 2014 by

It was a competition in the Irish Times. Send in a photo of your favourite Christmas bauble and tell the story behind it. It implied a much loved, battered old family heirloom. Something passed down through generations perhaps. I had been thinking about my tree decorations. A mixture of old and new. The old purchased when the kids were small and we lived in England. Mostly bought in Wilko. Mostly rubbish and now mostly gone. A few pieces left. Every year I take them out and think to myself they need to be dumped. But something stops me.

They were bought when we had no money. We didn’t own a house. We lived off one salary and we had two small children. The star is a tinselly, garish gold with a bit of blue through it. It’s lopsided when it’s not at the top of the tree. The tradition was that my daughter put it on as she was the youngest. She was usually lifted up by her daddy to perform this ceremonial role.

This year my son was here and he laughed when he saw me decorating, reached into the box and triumphantly put the star on the tree saying, “I’m the youngest in the house now.” Then he took out the little hand knitted Santa stocking he had made in playschool as a three year old in Lancaster and asked me to always keep it.

The memory of his time in playschool came flooding back. His first day when he cried and kicked and screamed. I was distraught. I ran back to the house and rang his dad in work and burst into tears. He told me not to be daft and go back and look in the window.  I walked back dreading what I might find, bracing myself to go in and rescue him. When I eventually managed to climb up to get a good view he was standing at the top of a slide posing like Batman.

Later when I collected him, he proudly presented me with a little orange Santa stocking that by now had a mushy, empty Smarty container in it. The evidence around his mouth.

This year, as every year I opened the old shoe box and lifted out the little stocking.

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