Saturday, 24 December 2011
Twas the night before Christmas.....
....and thoughts turn to Christmases past.
The first one I remember was way back in the middle of the last century when I was about three years old. I'd been very ill with some sort of childhood ailment but my Mum said I could stay up as someone was coming to see me. Lo and behold, a knock on the door. Father Christmas. Big red coat, boots, hood, beard. No sack of presents, though. He did his Ho Ho Ho and I screamed my head off! I remember Mum saying it was only Mr. Good (he was our upstairs neighbour in our Cornish flats unit - and had done his Father Christmas stint at a works' children's party) but I was having none of it. I remember him saying he was so sorry he thought it would cheer me up. It clearly hadn't. Mum did her best to try and reassure me and kept telling me not to be silly I knew Mr. Good. The dear man took off his beard and hood and I screamed even louder. To this day if someone in a film takes off a mask or false beard I shiver and have to look away....mouse or what!
A happier memory is the parcel of goodies that used to come from Canada from my Auntie Joan each year just before Christmas. It seemed huge when Mum plonked it on the table in the middle of the kitchen. This parcel came wrapped not in brown paper but in cloth of some sort - canvas or sailcloth, something thick anyway. It was stitched up with cotton that had been run through wax. Now, my Mum was 'green' before her time and recycled everything so that waxed cotton had to come off and be rewound around an old wooden cotton reel for further use. Oh, the agony of waiting. But the smell that came from that parcel is with me still - Canadian comics smell different to English (British!) ones......very, very different. And the paper seemed to have a different feel and the printing colours more muted. My brother - three years younger than me -was the recipient of the comics, hand-ons from our cousins, David, Gordon and Raymond. One year - a while before my brother was in to comics, a siren suit came for him to wear. It was yellow with a white fur trim on the hood and no one else in Devon seemed to have one because when Mum took him out in it everyone stopped to ask where she got it. Canadian winters are hard so my brother must have boiled in much warmer Devon in his little siren suit. As he got older he was on the receiving end of lots of check shirts - again, the first around here to have them. My biggest memory of a present is the bottle of perfume that arrived in the parcel the year I was eleven or twelve or so - perfume! It was an Avon perfume called Here's my Heart. It came in a saddle-shaped bottle and it was an epiphany moment for me - only grown-up ladies wore perfume which meant I was on my way to being grown-up, didn't it? Avon hadn't hit the UK shores at that time - or at least it hadn't snaked its way to Devon - so I felt really special having that perfume. To this day I never leave the house without a splash of perfume on my wrists and either side of my neck.
Then there was the Christmas of the spectral cat! Now, my mother-in-law hated cats and she was with us that day. I opened the back door for a bit of air and to let the sprout steam out and in walked this magnificent black cat. Like glistening coal it was, its fur so thick my hand almost disappeared in it when I wenty to stroke it. Quite a sturdy-looking animal with huge eyes that fixed me when I looked at it, but not in a menacing way. It made no noise, ignored a scrap of turkey skin I put down for it and walked into the sitting-room and plonked itself in front of the fire. Now we knew all the cats around here because I was forever chasing them off my garden but none of us had seen this one before. It stayed in front of the fire while we ate lunch, then when I - at last!! - got a moment to sit down it came and sat on my lap. No purr. Just sat there, like a folded up picnic blanket, warm and heavy. If I got up to pour drinks - or let a few out - the cat went back by the fire, then returned to my lap when I sat down again. About midnight, it jumped off and went to the door to be let out. We never saw it again. My mother-in-law reckoned it was spectral and sent for a purpose and she didn't sleep for a week thinking about it.
All memories, all different. This year I have not one, but two grandchildren to share my Christmas, and for me to make memories for. They say you're getting old when the policemen start looking younter......but what about when the Father Christmases do? Here's my own little Father Christmas taking a couple of years ago.