My parents were good at Christmas–they did my brothers and me proud.
December was a very exciting time.
It was the fifties–the second half of the 20th century.
Molly and Tony had grown up–spent their childhood–in the brutal first half .
They’d survived the war and were in their prime, building a family, relatively young parents for Peter and me though Ma was 40 when brother Jack was born.
They were of a mind to enjoy it all–I guess and did their best to make it magical for us.
Ma always started early–making the cake and the pudding back in September–dripping a little brandy onto them each month.
A young woman au pair from Scandanavia introduced the advent calendar to the household–so the countdown started on the first of the month.
It was sweet agony as we opened a box each day and the time ticked slowly by.
Late-ish on Christmas Eve, Santa sent a sign that he was overhead–a flame in the open fire turning greeny blue.
This was our cue.
Convinced–we eagerly scuttled off to bed. (Only later in life did we discover the trick of a teaspoon of salt cast on the flames by a scientifically savvy Dad!)
I never managed to wake up later than six on Christmas morning–always feeling the gorgeous weight of the stocking at the end of the bed–never doubting that Santa had come up trumps–apart from the perennial orange.
We weren’t allowed into the front room before eleven o’clock and the gap between a bacon and eggs breakfast (still indulged in chez nous) and eleven was difficult. The stocking presents were, of course, welcome and even interesting–up to a point; but eleven o’clock was the magic hour. That’s when we would move into the ‘family presents zone’.
Over the years, train sets, bicycles, puzzles, board games, footballs, cricket bats and cricket balls–how did my parents afford it on Dad’s modest British Rail salary?
(Years later, not long after they had both died, I was sorting through their DESK and found hundreds of unopened Lloyds Bank envelopes containing his bank statements. Dad’s answer to financial worries was clearly to operate in the land of the blissfully ignorant.)
The door to the “front room” was unlocked as the grandfather clock in the hall was chiming eleven and in we trooped to the sound of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (no TV ’til the sixties) on Dad’s treasured gramophone system–it was like entering wonderland.
The tree covered in lights and baubles, a coal fire in the grate (it was the time of London pea-soupers), a pile of presents for each person.
The pretty order of things was soon laid to waste in a sea of torn wrapping paper.
And the reassuring smell of the roasting turkey wafting from the kitchen confirmed there was more to come….
BONNES FETES as they say here to everyone, with
Many THANKS! Grazie! Merci! Gracias!
for your seasonal “Good Wishes” and continuing interest, over the past year–much appreciated.
…and to all a good night…!