Laying on my back, barely visible in the garishly patterned carpet, I could see the reflection of the Christmas tree in the television screen; multicoloured fairy lights illuminating the window behind. Mum had decorated it a few days before, real glass baubles, family heirlooms, kept in a black biscuit tin, in the cupboard under the stairs; each one carefully wrapped in tissue paper, stored neatly away for next year. Below the tree, the stand was wrapped in bright orange crêpe paper, a row of silver tinsel along the top. At its apex a fairy sat looking out across the lounge, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. She was expertly made from a toilet roll, consisting of paper wings and delicately placed head - made from paper mache. Appearing rather worn, after several years of use, she perched precariously leaning to one side, looking every inch her age. A splattering of glitter and some multicoloured home-made paper chains, produced at school and over a hundred Christmas cards filled the room. The ceiling was full of magic; shimmering lanterns, stars and foil garlands, gently swaying in the heat blowing through the hall. I loved this time of year; bright lights, sparkling decorations, smiling faces. Everyone seemed happy, alive and enjoying the festive cheer.
I could hear Mum in the kitchen, preparing tomorrow's feast; the biggest turkey I had ever seen. The smell of stuffing, drifted into the lounge; I sniffed the air, licking my lips. On top of the G Plan coffee table, sat a large unopened tin of Quality Street, as big as a drum. Next to it, a box of Milk Tray and some After Eight Mints. A packet of figs were already open - the cellophane wrapper placed next to the box, pierced with a wooden stick, covered in sweet, sticky, sugary syrup. Rolling over, I made a beeline for a packet of Twiglets, I spied from the corner of my eye. I was always a ‘savoury boy,’ still am, preferring Marmite covered crackers to an orange centred cream. Quickly I placed a handful in my mouth, before Mum walked in the room. Chocking briefly as a stray twig went down the wrong way. ‘Are you alright in there?’ Mum enquired, as a cough turned to a splutter. I replied as best I could, covering my mouth with my hand, placing a cushion over my face to dull the noise. Suitably composed, I hid the open box, behind the sitting room chair; wiping the crumbs from my lap, rubbing my mouth with a sleeve, I laid back down.
It wasn’t long before Mum walked through the door, looking at me straight in the eye. Guilty as charged, I looked upwards, away from her gaze, grinning sheepishly, half closing my eyes. Mum stood there with her hands on her hips, shaking her head, with a twinkle in her eye. It was Christmas Eve after all, nothing could put a damper on that.
It was nearly time for bed, just an hour of entertainment before shut-eye. I always loved Yuletide television, sat with family on Christmas Eve. Dad in his favourite chair, me next to mum on the settee, lights dimmed low, just the flickering tree in the corner and Bruce Forsyth on the box. The tin of Quality Street was finally opened, no longer on display. As a child I loved the multicoloured wrappers, holding each one up towards the lights on the tree, watching the bright colours shimmer through. Golden Cups were my favourite, filled to the top with caramel, which I used to suck out of the middle, after biting off the top.
By 8 PM, filled with chocolate, warm and cosy, my eyes slowly started to shut. Carried up to bed shortly afterwards, tucked in and kissed good night. By three o'clock in the morning I would be running downstairs, amazed by the mountains of presents, filled pillowcases and stockings full of sweets. Celebrating Christmas day, surrounded by family was a joy; party games in the evening at Nanny’s, a sip of eggnog and extra helpings of turkey and Christmas log, are enduring memories of an idyllic childhood, bringing finality and closure to the best day of the year!
47 year old Author, Columnist and Blogger.