An Anglesey Story
Who knew life could change so drastically from one heartbeat to the next. One second, you’re full of wonderous joy, the next …
The holidays are a festive time. For Tina and her family, Christmas is the most magical of all. The tastes, smells, laughter – even the complaints are a part of the traditions and vital to the memories. But one Christmas, tragedy struck and changed everything…
Will Tina be able to rediscover the magic, or has her joy been lost forever?
Share in the gifts of family and community in this emotional tale.
From Karen J. Mossman
We all imagine Christmas as wonderful, and most of the time, it is. I wanted to write about all the things that made the festive season enjoyable. But sometimes, life throws us a curve ball.
This is Tina’s story and how she coped when Christmas didn’t go as planned. Family is the heart of this story. With them, we take a roller coaster ride of emotions that will make you laugh and cry.
Christmas was always a festive time of year for us and filled with amazing memories. My family celebrated well in our house, despite the playful sighs and groans expelled from my sister, Dawn, and me. She and I would pretend it was too much, and how we’d been turkey’d out while Mum and Dad would go overboard on everything, trying to make it the best holiday ever, and it usually was.
I understand now that it’s only when you look back that you realise how they actually were the best of times.
I’m Tina, and I live in Holyhead, Anglesey, an island off the north Wales coast. Since my dad worked for the Royal Air Force, or RAF, as a mechanic, my family moved around a lot over the years. Eventually, we lived in a house on the air base at RAF Valley Camp. After he retired, we moved into town, where I’ve been for almost five years now.
Holyhead is a great place to live. It’s just on the outskirts of the main town and underneath Mynydd Twr, Holyhead Mountain.
Every year, Dad traditionally brought the turkey to the table to carve. We all sat and watched as our mouths watered. Even though there were only four of us, the bird always seemed larger than the previous year.
My sister, Dawn, and I would groan when our father came in with the platter. Despite our reaction, we loved it. However, our complaints about consuming too much were also part of the tradition. In truth, we never tired of eating turkey during the holidays.
Over the following days, Mum would make a curry, a bubble and squeak, and a fry-up with the leftovers. Not to mention the endless turkey sandwiches with a variety of accompaniments. Most of all, Dawn and I enjoyed sneaking into the kitchen to tear slices off and stuff them into our mouths.
They served Christmas dinner in the early afternoon. Afterwards, Mum and Dad would relax with a tipple of something while Dawn and I cleaned up at breakneck speed before we opened the presents from under the tree.
Only when we had dried everything, put it away, and swept up, would Dawn and I relax. We loved the excitement created by the anticipation, and a lot of giggling went on in the kitchen. That was until one Christmas Eve, when everything changed.
Two days before this event, I had finished all my shopping and sat in the front room, wrapping my last-minute gifts. Sticky tape, sparkly bows, ribbon, and wrapping paper filled the dining table in front of me. Dusk settled, and the temperature outside dropped, but I felt cosy as a Christmas candle burned, filling the room with a sweet aroma and festive feel.
The front door opened, blowing in a cold draft. With a rustle of shopping bags, Dawn swooped in ladened with goodies and dropped them to the floor with a sigh. “I thought you’d be finished by now.” She glared at me as if I had no right to be there.
“I have, just about.” I was in good spirits, determined not to let anything spoil it for me, not even Dawn. However, I felt smug for being one step ahead of her. “You shouldn’t leave yours to the last minute,” I chided as I shook my head.
Unlike me, Dawn never planned for anything, and, as usual, she had left all of it to the last day. I’d been doing small amounts of shopping for the last few months, so I didn’t have any of the stress. It allowed me to smile cheerfully, despite my sister’s cantankerous mood.
I’ve never resented Dawn, but she was always the prettier one between the two of us. People said we were alike, though I couldn’t see it for myself. My sister’s lovely honey-coloured hair flowed straight to her shoulders and when she moved her head, it returned to its natural place, always tidy and shiny. The same height as me, she’d always been curvier. In contrast, my hair was a plain, mousy brown, and hung down my back in long strands. Whenever I moved my head, my mop stayed exactly where it was, which was everywhere. It always looked as if I’d stuck my head out of the car window.
Kicking off her shoes, Dawn sat down in a fluster. “Well, we’re not all as organised as you, Tina. Some of us have busy jobs and boyfriends.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Are you saying I don’t? I have a busy job, too, yet I find the time to shop. As for boyfriends, some of us have better things to concern ourselves with.”
Dawn was in a relationship with Rhys, and they had been together for over a year. I wasn’t as lucky as her, so my sister referred to her relationship whenever she wanted to make a dig at me.
“Yeah, right,” she scoffed. “Well, whatever you need to tell yourself to feel better. The fact is, this is the first chance I’ve had to shop.”
“Clearly.” I wouldn’t rise to the taunt. Eyeing the bags, I wondered how she’d carried them all.
We were sisters. We sparred with each other, but it was never serious.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” I offered.
“Oh, yes, please,” she said, as an enormous smile crossed her face. Dawn stood, took off her coat, and went out to hang it in the hall as I went through to the kitchen.
Mum and Dad dozed in the back room with the television on low. Typical for them at this time of day. Usually, Mum would have her knitting on her lap, and Dad would be softly snoring with his chin on his chest. They always woke for tea, never refusing a drink, so I knew to prepare enough.
I soaked up the atmosphere as the kettle boiled up. The sounds of Dawn emptying her shopping bags and voices from the television drifted over to where I stood in the kitchen. I noticed a bowl of meat Mum had left to thaw for dinner on the counter. Even in the mundane elements of our daily lives, the festive season brought a spark of magic to everything.
The lead-up and anticipation of the big day was something I enjoyed. It was my favourite time of year, until January, of course, when I was sick of it, and looked forward to the spring instead. I loved the warmth that cheered families in winter. Perhaps it was just the Christmas lights, the eggnog, and the rum-infused fruitcake.
Brightly coloured trees appeared around the first of December. It bothered me that some people put them up too early. I would argue with Dawn about it. She always said, “it’s not important when it’s done,” but it mattered. November wasn’t Christmas month.
Just standing in the kitchen felt special, like there was magic in knowing people all over the world were doing a similar thing. I hoped their Christmas was going as well as ours.
Everything was normal and right in our lives. My new job was doing well, and we were working long hours to make the company a success. Dawn was happy with her life and boyfriend. Plus, Mum and Dad were the best parents anyone could wish for.
I sighed contentedly as the kettle clicked off. Pouring the boiling water into the teapot, I let it brew and stared out the window, thinking about tomorrow. After adding milk and sugar to the cups, I took them over to my parents.
Upon my arrival, Mum stirred, her knitting in her lap. “Thanks, love,” she muttered, coming round and wriggling back to a sitting position.
Smiling, I handed her the cup and put Dad’s on the table next to him, where he slumped in the chair. “Tea, Dad,” I said, peering at his face.
He didn’t move.
“Dad?” I called again.
Something was wrong.
Mum jumped to her feet. “Osian, wake up. Osian, what are you doing?!”
I grasped my dad’s cold wrist and checked his pulse. My stomach dropped and my heart raced as I confirmed the unbelievable truth – my dad was dead.
We had a year when my husband and I lost both of his parents and then my mom all within 30 days! When the holidays came around, it was so hard to face without them. This story basically gave me all the feelings from that time. You continue to move and function but always with your loss wrapped around your heart.
I loved Tina’s mom’s toast. That is how I look at the holidays now, enjoying whose there each time we are lucky enough to get together.
Thank you, Karen J. Mossman, for bringing my feelings to words and helping me realize that we are all celebrating with just a smidgen of sadness for the ones who aren’t there each year. I do love the memories, though!
I would recommend this short story to anyone who is struggling with finding the joy that Christmas is all about and to those who just love a good, heartwarming story.“
My only disappointment is that I wish the story was longer as I loved the characters so much & would have liked to see what happens to them all next.“
“There is a certain charm to Christmas stories that brings joy to our hearts. One Christmas: An Anglesey Story by Karen J. Mossman is one such tale. This novella follows the story of Tina and her family. Tina, a young woman from the small town of Holyhead in Anglesey, an island off the coast of Wales, loves everything about Christmas and all it entails, including shopping with her sister Dawn, having family dinners, and the overall sense of joy that epitomizes the holiday season. However, on one Christmas Eve, her father passes away unexpectedly, and Tina, her mother, and her sister feel as if Christmas has lost all of its joy and warmth. As time passes and the family tries to recover from their tragedy, Tina will soon find herself in a relationship that may bring back the spirit of Christmas for her and her family.
Karen J. Mossman tells a cozy Christmas story full of heart, charm, and romance. One Christmas is just the type of book you need to read before the upcoming holidays. This is a story about love, family, and the process of letting go of your grief. Tina is a young woman who loses a part of herself when her father dies on Christmas Eve, and it isn’t until she falls in love that she and her family regain their sense of belonging during Christmas. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and think that everyone else will feel the same. This is a heartwarming tale that embodies the spirit of Christmas.“
— Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers’ Favorite