Goodbye To Christmas

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It was time to pack Christmas way. It felt like the decorations and the tree had always been up. The green wreath on the door welcoming guests and the lights flashing colours warmly.

The boxes came down from the attic, the tape came out once more to secure things. There was the slow and careful packing of breakable things; glass angels and burbles. The lights were wrestled back into their boxes to be untangled next December. All that fragrance of Christmas began to fade.

The house seemed different once things were taking down. They left behind an strange emptiness that couldn’t be filled by anything else.

Dear Diary

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Dear Diary,

It’s always strange waking up on the first of a new year. You think things will have changed but nothing has. I can imagine the number of people who woke up this morning and got on with their New Year resolutions.

Diets, give up smoking, stop drinking, save money, start a family, get a new job, whatever people choice to do. I didn’t pick anything. There was nothing I can think of that I want to achieve this year. I guess that makes me boring but no one has actually asked me so I haven’t had to make anything up.

I guess I would have said that I wanted to go on a diet and that one with the shakes I had seen on the TV the other day was what I was going to do.

Or maybe, I might have said that I wanted to take up a real difficult hobby like leather or metal working.

How long can you wait to decided what your resolution is going to be? How did it all come about anyway and why is there pressure to have one?

I don’t know. I guess I should just pick in case I’m asked. Someone at work is bound to want to know.

So, my 2020 resolution will be to give up buying books for the year.

That’s harsh and different but useful to me. I have a library of books to read and not buying any new ones will save some money that could be nice to use to go on holiday with.

It’ll do.

At Year’s End

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She sat in the waiting room, hands twisting in her lap and eyes watching the clock tick away. There was only a few other people around which was unusual for a Tuesday morning but it was Christmas and New Year holiday time after all.

She had wanted to come alone. Most of her family and friends had offered to come with her. It was a big day after all. She had shook them all off, needing to face the test results alone. Everybody had been with her throughout this whole thing but today, she had wanted to reflect quietly, whatever was said.

The doctor called her in and she felt her heart skip a beat and her breath freeze in her lungs. Somehow, she got her body working and stood up to go into the room. Nothing had changed since her last visit. The blinds were still down on the window, the computer was hot and humming away. The shelves were filled with medical stuff and a poster about getting the flu vaccination was trying to peel itself off the wall.

‘Your results are back,’ the doctor spoke, ‘I’m pleased to tell you, you are clear of cancer.’

Marshmallows

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We played in the snow, rosy cheeks and numb fingers. At the fire, we roasted marshmallows. The air coated with burnt sugar.

Snow Dust

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The snow fell on the town. Flakes danced in the lights from windows and out on the street. There was no noise as the snow stuck to cold patches or melted on warm roofs. Everyone was asleep, staying warm as winter froze everything but a small face appeared at a window and looked down into the street.

It was not the first snowfall of that year that the child had seen but for her each was magical. She thought some of the icy flakes could be fairies fluttering by. They helped to spread the frost and ice that lay thin.

The child rubbed her eyes and felt sleep calling her back to bed. She hoped the snow carried on falling. There would be games to play outside tomorrow, snowman to build and hot bowls of stew to wolf down in the evening.

She could wear her new suede and fur coat, the knitted gloves and hat from granny. Father might take them sledging on the hills and to feed the deer herd. Maybe, they would go to auntie’s for tea and cake on the way home.

Head full of things, she snuggled down back in bed and had dreams full of snow and fairies.

Flint #CCC

We took our normal boxing day family walk on the beach and thankfully it wasn’t raining. The sky was cloud covered, the wind blustery and spraying sea water at us. We were huddled in coats and boots, not looking like we were enjoying things expect for Banshee the dog.

‘Grandfather! Look at this!’ Tod’s voice called above the crashing waves.

He came over with a large triangle shape of shinny rock.

‘It’s a Neolithic arrow head! A great find!’ my dad said.

‘And there’s more over there!’

We went over and discovered a treasure hoard washed up on the beach.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/12/18/crimsons-creative-challenge-58/ with thanks).

 

 

Christmas Day

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The house was quiet, such a strange feeling for today! I stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil. My body had kept me up most of the night and my old husband had been complaining again.

I had gone into the spare double bedroom which was made up for my daughter and her husband’s arrival later on. Next door, the grandchildren’s room was ready also.

The whole house felt like it was holding itself in, ready to burst when my family broke down the door and stormed the Christmas tree.

Only then would I feel like it was Christmas day.

Christmas Eve

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All the children but one were in bed. I looked at my oldest from across the living room, he was sat on a beanbag next to the Christmas tree, playing on a game console, headphones in and switched off from the rest of the world.

My wife give me a nudge with her elbow and and nodded towards him, her eyes telling me I had to convince our son to go to bed now. It was an hour or so before his normal time and I was finding being the father of a fourteen year old difficult.

‘It’s too early,’ I whispered back to my wife.

‘I know, but we have presents to wrap,’ she replied back.

‘So? Josh can help.’

She shook her head, ‘I want him to have one last magical Christmas.’

‘You said that last year…He’s a teenager now,’ I hissed back.

My wife pulled a face and turned her attention back to the TV. We had been watching some old Christmas movie but it wasn’t that interesting and followed the same old plot that other seasonal films did.

There would be no arguing with her. It really wasn’t the time. Christmas was stressful and more so when you had a big family and an even bigger extended one. We had six children; four girls and two boys, ageing between five and fourteen.

I had four older siblings who had many children of their own and my wife had three remaining siblings with families of their own, plus the children from her two brothers who had passed away. Then there were all the cousins, distant relatives and friends who were like family. Also, the people who only seemed to appear at Christmas then fade into memory for the rest of the year.

I got up, trying not to be grumpy. I was just as tired as she was and not in the mood for dealing with argumentative teenage boys. Perhaps, there was another way though?

Tapping, Josh lightly and motioning the removing of his headphones and I got his attention.

‘Why don’t you go and play that in bed now?’ I said.

‘It’s still early,’ he replied, a moaning tone in his voice.

‘I know, but we have present wrapping to do and you wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises.’

Josh fixed that look, the one that said he didn’t believe me and was getting on the edge to start arguing, ‘No, I won’t. I know what you’ve got me all ready. What I asked for; new headphones, Zombies Revenge Battle Two and The Haunted Earth games, Zomboz and Bomboz books, a download of the newest Death Rattle album, one of their band hoody and matching t-shirt.’

I took a deep breath, ‘and how do you really know we got you all of that?’

Josh shrugged and turned back to his game, ‘mum told me.’

Avoiding looking back at my wife, I spoke, ‘but we might have brought you something else too. Please, Josh, be good and think about your brothers and sisters. We know you don’t believe anymore but it’s important to keep things nice for them.’

I had noticed he had been keeping his distance all day. The other kids had been over-excited and unable to focus on much. Josh hadn’t spoke much and spent a lot of time playing his games. Even later, when we had gone out to lay the glitter and oats trail for the reindeer then put out the mince pie, whiskey and carrots, Josh hadn’t been with us.

Had my son really grown out of Christmas?

‘Come on, Josh. Bedtime or else you’ll have to help wrap presents,’ I pressed harder.

Josh sighed and gathered his things. He went upstairs and I followed after him.

‘I’m staying up to finish this level,’ Josh said, threateningly as he flopped down on his bed.

‘That’s fine. Thank you,’ I answered and went to shut the door.

‘Dad?’

‘Yes, son?’

‘Was Santa real?’ Josh asked.

I frowned and paused in the doorway. Where had that question come from?

‘Like, did he ever existed?’

I came back into the room, pushing the door closed behind me. Josh was sat up now, his game forgotten for the moment. I joined him on the bed and thought how to reply.

‘And don’t give me a fairy story, I know none of that is real,’ Josh added.

‘I guess there might have been an old man once who inspired the stories,’ I said carefully.

‘Like Robin Hood and King Arthur? There’s not much fact they existed, is there?’

‘Yeah, that’s right. It’s that kind of myth, legend thing. There must have been someone who inspired those stories,’ I replied, latching onto his way of thinking.

‘I guess that makes sense,’ Josh answered, ‘I wonder who he was? I bet the internet would know!’

‘The internet knows everything,’ I muttered, ‘but you know that some stories can’t be captured.’

‘What?’

‘Get into bed and let me tell you about an old man in Iceland who was the first Santa.’

‘Dad,’ Josh groaned, ‘I’m not a kid and I don’t need a bedtime story! And I have this level to finish.’

‘I know all that but just this once okay? I thought you wanted to hear about it.’

Pulling a face and muttering, Josh did as I asked and settled into bed.

‘Once there was an old man who lived alone but he loved children. He had longed wished for his own but, and though he’d had a few wives, he never had any of his own. He was black smith and also a carpenter because where he lived in a small town in Iceland it was far from anywhere else.’

‘He could have moved,’ Josh cut in.

‘Not the point,’ I replied and got on with the story, ‘the man made little money mending things, so he made things to sell but soon no one wanted anymore chairs or tables or shelves. The man decided he would have to make something else instead or he would have no money to get food or firewood.’

‘Sounds like he needs a new job,’ Josh muttered.

‘One day, watching the children play in the snow, an idea came to him; he would make them some toys. He spent a long time planning and trying to make things. At first he wasn’t sure what the children would like and because there was so few toys around, there was little for him to go off. The man asked the children and they told him they would like dolls and blocks, hoops and spinning tops, rocking horses and pull along dogs.’

‘Baby toys?’ Josh scoffed, ‘why?’

‘No, these where old fashioned toys. They didn’t have computers and TVs back then! Or even plastic. The toys were all made of wood and spare things that were left over from making other things. Children didn’t have a lot of time to play in the old days. They had to help their parents run farms and they had to go out to work as money was always short,’ I explained.

‘Like the Victorian children? We learned about them in history class.’

‘Yes,’ I replied.

‘So, he made these toys and then what? He went and give them out?’

‘Erm, no, because he wouldn’t have made any money then. The man tried to sell the toys but people weren’t interesting. They didn’t have spare money to buy toys, they had to buy meat, bread and firewood instead. The man was disheartened but then another idea came to him and he asked some of the children to come and work for him. He give them easy tasks and paid them with toys.’

Josh laughed and asked, ‘for real?’

‘Sure, why not?’ I questioned, ‘the idea did work and other children came looking for work because they too wanted toys and the man found them jobs, sometimes helping him to make the toys themselves. When he ran out of jobs, the man got the children to help other people and because the children were getting toys instead of money, there was more money to go around.’

‘But, he wasn’t making any money himself was he? So, the man was just as poor as before.’

I give a nod and carried on, spinning the story I was making up on the spot as if it was a well known tale, ‘but because there was more money to go around now, people could offered to buy toys for their children. They could have special presents on their birthdays and Christmas. Then, one of the adults came to the old man and asked him to start making gifts that the adults could give each other because they had seen how happy the children were and the grown ups wanted to celebrate too.’

Josh nodded sleepily but didn’t interrupted. He was curled in bed, looking like a child once again as he started to doze off.

I continued, ‘The man was happy to do this because it meant more work and more money. So, he made gifts the adults could give each other and soon that become a tradition too. On the winter solace that year, the town celebrated the shortest day and the man give away many toys to lots of people, thus another tradition was born.’

Getting up, I tucked Josh in, he was almost asleep so it was time to finish the story, ‘ word began spreading about an old man in Iceland who give children toys in winter and people liked that idea and decided to make it so. Stories were told and added to and changed over the years. Santa was created from all them, but who knows what is true or not now? Like all great myths and legends, we’ll never know for sure but doesn’t that make them more interesting?’

 

 

 

 

 

Robin #TaleWeaver

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It was early morning and still mostly dark. The grass was crisp with frost and the road sparkling. Most people were still in bed but I was making my way to the church. It was the eve before Christmas Eve and many things still needed to be done.

I was dressed not in my normal vicar robes but a heavy coat underneath was a handmade wool cardigan, black shirt with my white colour, grey trousers and soft shoes. Even so, I still felt winter’s chill and I knew once inside it would be even colder.

My house wasn’t that far away but I had to walk up a narrow pathway then enter the back of the graveyard and go across there to the small side door. It was treacherous  when icy or snowy but last night hadn’t been cold enough to make it so.

I opened the gate to the graveyard, which I kept well oiled as I hated the loud screeching squeak. The headstones looked strange in the half light, some looked like fallen rocks and others like hunched figures. There were a few pathways that led through and I took the main one up. The grass was kept short, as I liked it and the gravestones well tended even if there was no family member left to do so.

I got the door, unlocked it with a too larger key and stepped inside. The smells of wax and damp stone met me. I stomped my boots and hurried to turn on the lights and the old 1960’s heaters. They should have been replaced long ago but money was needed else were and I don’t think it would matter anyway. Nothing could keep the church warm – too many gaps in the windows, doors and brickwork now.

I got on with my tasks; placing candles about, fixing the wings of an angel that a child had snapped off the other day. Make sure the winter food giving table was’t over full and removing a few things into the boxes underneath. I checked the stacks of prayer books, bibles, song sheets and other papers make sure no mice had gotten to them and they weren’t left too close to the leaking windows.

There were loads of other things but I didn’t made doing them. It give me time to think and enjoy the silence of the church. I sometimes hummed hymens, played a tune on the organ or went though some of the CD music to easily remember their numbers without having to look it up.

My final task before leaving the church was to check to the mice traps. Any little furries in there, I would collect and take the traps outside with me when I left. I didn’t believe like the last vicar and groundskeeper that they should be killed. I caught them alive and set them free in the fields I past by on the way home.

Today, as I did that and watched their little white and brown bodies disappearing into the frosty grass, I saw a robin on the fence post. He seemed to be watching me.

‘Good day,’ I whispered.

He put his head to one side as if wondering why I was speaking to him.

‘Cold out isn’t it? The church might be a bit warmer but don’t get frozen on the window sills!’

He chirped a little and dropped down into the grass.

‘Robins always remind me of Christmas. It’s said one relight a fire in the stable and an ember burnt his chest. Of course, there are lots of other stories,’ I spoke.

The robin fluttered about, looking for food and I wished I’d brought something with me.

‘Next time, little fellow,’ I said and walked back to my warm house and breakfast.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/tale-weaver-254-christmas-tales-19-12/ with thanks).

Christmas Elsewhere #3LineTales

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Irene hadn’t wanted to spent a wet Christmas at home, alone and falling asleep during the Queen’s Speech.

She decided to book a holiday and go on an adventure package holiday, she was still fit enough and didn’t feel her old age, though people were referring to her as ‘old lady’ now.

The first day involved getting into a warm sea and swimming with sharks, ‘What a way to spend Christmas!’ Irene uttered as she felt a fin brush her toes.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/12/19/three-line-tales-week-203/ with thanks).