The First Christmas


It was a gold one, with some glittery stuff around the top, you know round the bit where the metal wire goes. We’d had it since I was a kid.  I’d had no idea where it came from, none at all.  It never occurred to me to ask it just – was.

Every year we’d take out the box of decorations, trim the tree and round the fireplace.  I liked it best when it was really cold.  It’s strange isn’t it, when we think of  Christmas we think of snow, cards have snow on them, we even stick cotton wool on the windows to pretend it’s snow.  Well actually we don’t do that so much anymore nowadays it’s all spray and stuff.  The thing is though it doesn’t does it? – snow I mean.  I can’t actually remember any Christmas when it’s snowed and we’ve had to wear hats and gloves and carry hot potatoes, oh the hot potatoes thing was from that book – Little Women, they used to carry hot potatoes to keep their hands warm.  Now that I think about it that was a Christmas present.  I loved that book, read it over and over when I was a kid.

Anyway, usually Christmas is warmer than you’d think and that’s disappointing – to me anyway.  Mind, that’s not all that’s disappointing, is it.  Take the turkey, it’s such a big deal, should it be farm reared or free range, definitely not frozen and how big and even nowadays what colour feathers it had.  I mean I ask you, when the darned thing’s cooked and carved and slathered with gravy it doesn’t make a ha’pporth of difference what colour feathers the poor thing had does it.  Still and all though there’s all the fuss and then blow me down, nine times out of ten we’d start eating it and Mum’d say, “Oh this is disappointing it’s dry – don’t you think it’s dry father, it is isn’t it.  It’s dry.”

So, we had this bauble, every year it just got stuck on the tree in amongst all the others and then blow me down this year we took it out and it was cracked.  It had been wrapped up in tissue same as always and nestled in an old egg box but something had happened to it up in the loft and the darned thing was cracked.

Now, I’m not a perfectionist, I haven’t got one of those conditions – I don’t know what you call them, they’re a modern thing Compulsive Obsessions or something but I do like things nice, especially at Christmas, well if you can’t have it nice then when can you?  So I said to Dad, “I’ll just chuck this one shall I? Put it out with the rubbish like.”  Well, you’d have thought I’d offered to fry the goldfish.  He grabbed it out of my hand, snatched it away and carried it off into his room.  I found him later, sat on his bed he was and d’ya know he had great big tears rolling down his cheeks.

He’s been stoic, up to now I mean.  I will say that, he’s been a brick, right up until the bauble incident and for some reason that was the thing that finished him off.  Apparently, it was the first one they ever bought, when they were first married.  They were so short of money and couldn’t afford any real presents but Mum had managed somehow to scrape some together and she had given it to him on Christmas Eve tied on to a tree branch that she’d painted red and that had been their Christmas tree that year.  All this time and I never knew, I never understood.  All the stuff that they went through together, four kids, the war, him out of work.  Then the happy stuff when they both worked and we all grew up and did okay.  And now she’s gone and he’d been so brave and that was the thing that finished him off, that bloody Christmas bauble.

“It’s her.” he said, “We had this all our married lives and it’s always been there, a reminder of all she’s ever done for me,  all we worked for, she’s here in this, her hands have polished it hung it on the tree and then wrapped it and packed it and put it away. Even last year, she put it away.”

Well I couldn’t bear it, seeing him all torn up like that, I mean she’s been gone since May and this is our first Christmas without her but I thought we were doing okay and then it all fell apart all over a blinking Christmas decoration.  Well, what could I do, we got the glue out and it’s there now, up at the top, I did put it a bit to the back ‘cos the crack shows but the look on his face when I tied it to the branch.  Well – so okay it’s not perfect but  as I say nothing ever is really, I’ll bet the turkey’ll be dry and it’s one of those that used to have black feathers – apparently.

It can’t be perfect can it, but we’ll make it the best that we can and she can watch us from wherever she is, heh, maybe from inside that blasted cracked bauble.

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