The Christmas that nearly wasn’t

Name your best Christmas, my parents said to me the other day. My best… the most memorable… the most exciting?!

To be honest, I can only remember Christmas’s from eight years up – the first eight years were a mist of hazy snapshots, smells, and tears (most likely mine because I was the youngest of three girls). From eight years on, I remember more.

Every other year we drove five hours north to where our grandparents lived in Russell – the Bay of Islands. Nana would get tetchy from all the stress of cooking and socialising. My Pa would recline in his sturdy, hard-as-an-ironing-board chair, and comment something irrelevant every now and then – which would further incense Nana.

But that’s not the Christmas I want to recall today.

I must have been nine or so. The borderline age for talking about Santa and holding a dying hope there really was one. My eldest sister was 15 and did an excellent job of pretending to hate everything to do with Christmas. So, I wasn’t bothered when she told me to rack off at 4:55am that morning. I had other people to wake.

As I went through my family members one by one, returning to wake the living dead, my excitement had built to an almighty level and I was ready to burst. We all stood at the white door to the living room, where I knew The Tree to be standing in wait. Mum uttered an ok and I pushed the door open and ran in.

My brain didn’t know how to process what I wasn’t seeing. No tree. No presents. No lights or decorations. At this stage I should point out my self-regulation wasn’t good. I instantly burst out crying. My sister even seemed to wake a little.

WHERE WAS THE TREE!!

WHERE WERE THE PRESENTS??

Mum and Dad didn’t let me dwell on my self-pity too long.

Exchanging a knowing glance, they ushered us to the back door, where a large tent stood. I trod down the steps carefully, not knowing what to believe anymore. Pushing open the tent flap, there stood our tree, gleaming back at me, presents showered on the ground and a shiny new bike with tinsel handlebars. I was in heaven.

This Christmas stood out because I am a parent now, and can appreciate the time and effort they spent putting it altogether while we slept. So, thank you mum and dad, I have so many more memories to share, perhaps another time.

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