“Remember Mac, you wanted that frosty thingy from Santa?”, I always felt my heart sink, when my parents didn’t even know the name of the toy I needed (badly, of course) ~ it was for me, a sure sign Santa wouldn’t bring it.
“Well, Mac , to be honest, I think Santa may have ran out, but don’t worry, Santa will not leave ya empty handed” my father would pat my head, lift my downward chin up, so our eyes would meet, he would repeat, “Santa will not leave you empty handed, ok?” I’d shrug. “Ok” I’d force a smile. Inside,my tiny heart would break, knowing this year, again, Santa wouldn’t be bringing me my most favourite toy of the year.
I knew we had a big family. I knew it was an expensive time of year, with all the groceries my parents had to buy( back then shops closed for three to four days!) . I could just never understand why Santa, rarely brought me what I had asked for.
Every single Christmas,as far back as my mind can go, I had the most wonderful Christmas. We would spend Christmas Eve going to mass, where at least two of us were part of the churches nativity play. We’d rush home, excitedly running upstairs to put on our pj’s, run back down and sit in the sitting room waiting for both our parents to come in and watch a movie with us. My dad would open a tin of “roses” ( very popular sweets here in Ireland, they still are!),he’d pretend we didn’t want any, while we’d sit watching him go through the tin, picking his favourites, adding ” oh mammy, ‘tis an ‘ol pity the kids don’t want any, here ya go” he’d hand the tin to my mother, who would laugh, take a single sweet and pass the tin to Oliver, the eldest in our family. My cheeks would water like a tap as I watched each sibling older than me, pick and choose their favourite. Finally, my time would come. I’d take two strawberry and two orange and had the tin to Mucker who would be drooling beside me, hands ready at a seconds notice to relieve the tin from my tight grip.
We’d watch our movie,all talking together and finishing the tin of roses. As soon as the credits would roll we’d skip up the stairs laughing and joking, while my dad would remind us to sleep. We never did. We’d be up easily until 1 am waiting for a sneak peek at Santa, we’d finally give up, get some sleep and wake our parents around 5am to let them know Santa had come.
All my wanting of certain toys would disappear as soon as I opened my first gift. Santa always seemed to know what I’d really like. He was rarely wrong when I was a child. That magical man knew me better than I knew me. The day was spent playing, showing off new clothes and eating until we couldn’t move.There was a strong sense of belonging every year in our home at Christmas, something, as an adult, I now know, you simply cannot buy.
My parents hadn’t a lot of money, none of us ever got what we had asked for. We would get the cheaper version of it or something different altogether. Sometimes, though, my parents would get that one thing, that one thing you felt you had to have and they’d take it in turns to do it for each of their seven children, each Christmas.
This particular Christmas it wasn’t my turn. Only looking back, did I notice this pattern.
I miss being a kid at Christmas , a time when Santa brought you what you needed, gave you something you weren’t expecting and always had a selection box for you incase you didn’t want the traditional fry up. My mother spent her day, happily and I mean happily cooking away while my father played with our toys, sang and danced while trying to steal from the forbidden kitchen. My mother would scold him every year for ‘picking’ before his dinner. “You’ll never finish it Willie, go on, get out” she’d playfully hit him on the bum with the tea towel. She was always right. My father, to this day, picks so much before Christmas dinner, that he never finishes his meal. Ever.
I’d love to go back. Go back to 1986 (ish) and have one of my childhood Christmases all over again. We didn’t have much….but then again, we had an awful lot.
Thank you mam and dad for my Christmases, you taught me so much, without meaning too.