I first saw Father Christmas when I was five on the night of Christmas Eve. Big fluffy balls of snow filled the night sky as the moon bathed them in its radiance. I was excited and incapable of staying asleep for long. The stocking on my bed remained empty, but he could have been busy downstairs. I clambered out of bed and tiptoed down..
To my delight, there he was, laying out presents. Eyes wide in wonder, I hadn’t made a noise, yet he sensed my presence.
A startled expression lit his eyes as I lingered in the doorway, uncertain whether to run or stay. His eyes twinkled and the corners of his eyes creased as he smiled under his big white beard.
After a moment, he winked and tilted his head upwards. I fled back upstairs. In bed, I closed my eyes tight shut and tried hard to fall asleep.
He had to be the real Father Christmas, as I didn’t have a daddy.
When I woke up on Christmas morning, snow lay thick on my windowsill. A bitter frost fragmented the glass.
The stocking on my bed felt heavy on my feet. Excitedly, I brought it up to investigate its contents. With delight, I took each item out slowly.
A gleaming red apple begged to be devoured, a tangerine that smelt fresh and festive, a skipping rope with red wooden handles, and an adorable doll with long black hair and huge eyes that fluttered when she moved.
I shifted her around in my hands, marvelling at her knitted clothes that looked warm and cosy. Bringing her to my lips, I kissed her, powerless to stop grinning, as I chortled with delight. She quietly whispered her name into my ear. Emily, such a pretty name. We would be the best of friends as we chattered happily together. I nibbled my apple and shared it with her. Emily enjoyed it too, and juice dribbled from her mouth. “It’s juicy and very ripe,” she whispered.
We raced downstairs where Mum awaited me. Her eyes sparkled and with a smile she announced, “Father Christmas has been, Rosie!”
There on the sofa were toys of all descriptions. I could barely believe my eyes at all the precious gifts that Father Christmas had left.
A raggedy Ann doll, with long yellow pigtails, a colourful spinning top, and a tea-set, which meant Emily, Raggedy-Ann, and I would have parties galore. A ball, a dress, and some chocolate all spread across the cushions. I don’t know who was the happiest, Mummy or me, as I dove into the pile.
My mother was the only child of elderly parents. I’d since seen my birth certificate and was born a long way from where we lived. I can only surmise she preferred to move where nobody would recognise her as a single parent.
The following year, I had sneaked out of bed and tiptoed downstairs. Father Christmas was there again, and he gave me a conspiratory wink. He put his white-gloved finger on his lips, and I rushed back upstairs.
For the next few years, it became a secret game between us.
At ten years old, my life altered forever when Mum died, and they put me into a children’s home. Christmases were never the same again. The snow, never as thick, and Father Christmas hadn’t the same glint in his eyes.
As Christmas Eve came round again, peace finally settled in my house. I lay beside my sleeping husband. After all the work and preparations were complete, and the excited children fast asleep. I allowed myself to remember those times and smiled, wondering why it took me so long to discover the truth. I allow myself to remember those times and smile, wondering why it took me so long to discover the truth.
“Rosie,” my mother would often say. “You know you are the most precious thing in the world to me?” I nodded. “It’s important you don’t miss out on things other children have just because you don’t have a daddy.”
I didn’t miss out on anything. “That’s alright, Mummy,” I replied. “Because I’ve got something other children don’t.”
She stared, not understanding.
“You, Mummy, I’ve got you.”
Her eyes had brimmed with tears as they twinkled. She gave me a big hug and kissed the top of my head.
It turned out Mum knew all about my secret, and I should have recognised the twinkling eyes of Father Christmas.