It is December 10th, 2019, a few days after my mum’s 90th birthday, and I am limping towards my 64th Christmas, my enthusiasm as yet unroused. Mavis is excited though, and this is something to be grateful for in light of the saddest of things that happened on her third Christmas. It probably doesn’t seem that sad to you but I hate to remember it.
Her third Christmas. She was two years and two months old. The first year when excitement might well in her breast at the thought of Santa bringing a cornucopia of gifts and delivering them into a stocking, carefully hung outside the bedroom to avoid the terror of his looming into view in the middle of the night.
On Christmas Eve, Mavis was dispatched to bed with dire warnings that Santa wouldn’t come if she didn’t go to sleep, then Whizz and I clinked together our glasses of mulled wine and waited for the chance to fill up her stocking. I’m not sure who was more excited, us or Mavis. We couldn’t wait to watch her little face light up when she saw that magically lumpy sack.
The only thing that Mavis had asked Father Christmas for was a blue teddy, and this, with some effort, I had managed to find. Although rather small, he had a cute face, and after stuffing the stocking with the usual yoyos, dollies, silly games and such, I perched him on the top, peeping out over the edge so he would be the first thing she saw when she opened her door.
Whizz and I went to bed in the expectation of an early awakening, but strangely, we woke up before Mavis. Not wishing to disturb her sleep, we settled back in bed and began to read. After some time, the handle of the door went down and a solemn little face peeped in.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Has he been.’
Mavis shook her head. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I been too naughty.’
What? I launched myself out of bed saying, ‘I’m sure you haven’t. Let me see.’
It was quite a large stocking, made by me as a more attractive alternative to a pillow case. Overnight, its contents had settled to such a degree that teddy had dropped a few inches, and Mavis, being small, was unable to see inside.
Of course I soon showed her that the presents were there, but her earlier sadness took the edge off my joy, and I think, hers. Aww. I still feel a hollow in my stomach when I think of it.