It was another dark drizzly December day. Town was full of excited Christmas shoppers with festive carrier bags bulging together as they go into the brightly lit shops decked out in their Christmas finery in order to entice shoppers inside to spend their hard saved cash on the many carefully gift wrapped presents they had on offer.
This was my third attempt to do the Christmas shopping but despite the first time in years being able to buy the presents without bending the plastic too much my heart just wasn’t in it.
For years now the obscenity of the sheer waste has crept more and more into my soul and the way Christmas has just become a commercial excuse to line the pockets of shop owners.
When the kids were little it seemed to be different. Their anticipation of Santa calling on Christmas Eve and leaving their toys under the tree was totally tangible and their excited faces as their tear the paper from the presents in a 10th of the time it took to wrap them. It was great to watch their faces as we wandered around ‘toys r us’ and added another ‘must have’ toy to the letter they would send to Santa. I remember the year we discovered a site on the computer where they could email their letters to Santa and their excitement when he actually emailed them back.
But they are older now victims of a broken home and fully aware where the gifts really come from.
They already own all the major things like TV and HI FI, DVD players and the girly things like jewellery and perfume so the task in hand is difficult this year ... do I get more of the same? Do I just give them money so they can hit the sales in January ... Oh I really don’t know what to do. Also this year will I also have to compete with their Father ... Gone from me now. A part time Dad whom they still love to bits.
I wandered from shop to shop looking at the makeup and clothes puzzling what they would both like.
Then there is Mum and Dad too ... Oh this has got to be such a chore.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and I turned around. Its Father Christmas ... Well the elderly man the store has employed to bring the magic to the little ones. “ Hello young lady ... why the long face?” He asked. I smiled and say “ Its ok Santa ... Just struggling trying to do your job ... its really difficult this year” ... “And what about you ... what do you want for Christmas? He asks as I try to move on. I smile again and look into the distance “What I want more than anything wouldn’t be possible to own” I answer. “how do you know?” he asks then adds “ Join me for a coffee, its my break from the ho! Ho! Ho!’s and tell me this gift you would like ... it has intrigued me”
Suddenly the thought of having coffee with Santa seemed totally bizarre and caught my sense of eccentricity so off I went on the arm of Santa like it was the most normal thing in the world.
We turned a few heads as we headed down the High street a Lady passed her best and Father Christmas but my heart was lighter even if it was just for a few minutes. If nothing else I could imagine the girl’s faces when I told them I’d pulled Santa!’
We settled into the corner of a cozy café just ff the high street with a coffee and the inevitable
Minced pie and suddenly the whole situation hit me and I started to giggle.
“I knew under those blue sad eyes there was a sense of humour” as he took a sip of coffee. Then he remembered he still had his false beard on and laughed out loud ... very nearly a real ‘ho ho’ ho’.
“So come on spill the beans what is this gift you want that you can’t get in Tesco’s?” he asks again.
He looked more normal now without the beard and I smiled and said “come on then before I tell you what’s your real name then?” I asked
“Well actually its Nick” he replied
“Oh yeah ... like St Nick ... come on!”
“It’s true! He exclaimed indignantly and we both laughed
I felt easy in his company despite the stares and comfortable enough to reveal this elusive gift I had been wishing for.
I explained what Christmas had become for me ... a chore and a pain, trying to make it special for everyone and not being able to bring that magic back that was there when the kids were little. The cooking, the endless drone of the TV and the constant reminder of what we had become ... a disjointed family. Christmas is a time when everyone is supposed to be happy and laughing but when things don’t fit that pattern the ideal is a poignant reminder of the things that are missing in your life. I told him that I know compared with most I had many blessings but at this time of year it was hard to count them and for me Christmas had got totally out of hand.
“It keeps me in a job for a couple of weeks” he says “and its not easy finding work when you are 55 a bit over weight but these are just the qualifications required for Santa ... I have to just take what else goes the rest of the year ... Anyway ... Tell me ... what is it you want?” he asks.
“A magic box “ I tell him ... ”what with a wand and a white rabbit” he jokes ... ”No silly ... like a remote control” I answer.
“Interesting” he muses “and what will you do with that” he enquires with an amused look on his face.
“I would press the button to stop real time when I feel down and the TV gets to me. Then I would press another to transport me to the hills and the lakes or the seaside so that I can feel the wide open spaces and the cold on my cheeks and the wind in my hair. To have time to dream, time to think, time to be alone or time to share this wilderness with a likeminded person who would love the wonders of nature as much as I do. Where the Spruces are decorated with dew and the tinsel is the whore frost and the baubles are the berries in abundance, there to feed the birds over wintering here in Wales. To hear the sounds of the waves lapping at the shores of the lake and the call of the kestrel and the scratching of the squirrrel’s late to hibernate.
Far away from the endless ... ”Oh I wish it could be Christmas everyday” and the request for another chocolate or glass of sherry.
Once I had chilled out I could press another button and be back to try and make Christmas special for everyone else. “Am I sad?” I ask him as he sits there and listens
“No ... I can relate to that” He tells me. “But to have a little of what you want to escape from would be nice for me ... I am alone now, and once Christmas Eve comes ... out of a job!” But it would be remiss of me in my current roll if I didn’t try and find this elusive gift for you but just in case I find it I would need your phone number so I could deliver it personally.”
“Well my God I have heard some chat up lines but never that one” I laughed but got my phone out of my bag and we exchanged numbers.
He then took a few coins out from under his tunic to pay for the coffee, put his beard on again, stood up, held his belly and gave a very loud ‘HO! HO! HO!’ took my hand and planted a very tickly kiss on the end of my fingers and left me staring after him.
I left the café a few minutes later much lighter in heart and spent another hour a little more successfully buying presents then joined the queue of weary shoppers driving home from town.
I smiled often over the next few weeks thinking about my encounter with Santa and busied myself preparing for Christmas Day. As usual it all fell into place. The presents were wrapped, the tree was dressed and lit and was dropping needles everywhere. The meals were planned and I still was not looking forward to it ... I kept saying “it is only one day” but my heart wasn’t in it.
But time has a way of racing on and Christmas Day came and followed the usual pattern. This year the girls didn’t get up till 11am by which time dinner was well under way. The TV was blaring out cartoons in the corner and even my attempts to play Dylan in the kitchen was met with “Mum can you turn that down”
The wine was flowing but this time I preferred not to drink and was kidding by drinking elderflower cordial in a wine glass.
But it all went off Ok and Mum and Dad were dozing as the Queen made her speech. The girls had both entertaining their boyfriends and I was washing up the dishes. Then my mobile rang and a voice I vaguely remembered said “You are holding your magic box. It has malfunctioned and is unable to take you away today but tomorrow be ready for 10 and you will be taken off to the wilderness by Santa”
Oh Yes!!! Oh Yes!! My heart leaped as I remembered ... we talked for a few more minutes and I gave him my address, then said goodbye and went back to the dishes. I turned the hi fi back on and Dylan’s new album played quietly ‘beyond the horizon’ ... the words said it all
I opened the Moet poured a very frothy glass of champagne and raised the glass to my mobile ‘and a Merry Christmas to you too!’
Julie M Wilson
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015