Jenny's Christmas Wish
Jenny stood looking out of the window. Christmas was coming and she wondered how on earth she was going to afford it this year. They had only just paid off last year’s credit card and she wasn’t sure that she could go through that experience again. The children had already given her their present lists, 15 year old Jack wanted a laptop and his 13 year old sister Poppy wanted and Xbox 360 with Kinect and all the dance games to go with it. Jenny sighed, neither child believed in Santa anymore, both of them knew money was tight and yet, how could she not get them what they wanted? It would ruin their Christmas and two sulky teenagers around the dining table was not a pleasant thought. She turned around to survey the lounge. The patterned carpet was starting to look faded where the sunlight falling through the window landed and why did they choose a light coloured suite? It looked so grubby now. They usually threw a big party on Christmas Eve but it was going to be so embarrassing for her friends to see the house like this. Maybe they could all go down with flu the day before and then they wouldn’t have to fulfil the obligation.
‘Silly idea,’ she said shaking her head as she sank down into the battered sofa. It never used to be like this she thought. In the quiet of the early winter afternoon, Jenny found herself wandering down memory lane, the Christmases of her youth when her parents used to do the big Christmas shop. The highlight of the shopping trolley being the big bag of chestnuts that were later roasted on the coal shovel over the slowing embers of an open fire. She remembered her mum trying to stop them from burning by turning them over, but she never succeeded. There was always one burnt side. Then, that magical moment when Jenny was allowed to eat one,
‘Be careful,’ said her mum, ‘it’s hot!’
Understatement of the year Jenny remembered as she suddenly felt again the ‘ouch’ as she picked one off the shovel and the rapid juggling act that followed as she tossed it from hand to hand to cool it down again. Then, trying to break open the shell to get to the prized flesh inside until, finally she could pop that succulent nut into her salivating mouth. She always remembered too late that she didn’t really like chestnuts; it was the tradition of them that counted.
Then another memory assailed Jenny. After the chestnuts were eaten and before the fire died their dad would throw another log onto the fire sending a whoosh of sparks up the chimney. He then took their hand written lists and held them to the top of the chimney, and let go. Letting the angels whisk them away to Santa and tell him that she and her sister had been good girls that year. It was years before she realised that those sparks were from the wood, not real angels, but she still loved him for it. Wasn’t that where the magic was? The innocence of childhood before mass commercialism took over and mince pies went on sale in September. The days when a Barbie doll and a chocolate selection box in her pillowcase version of today’s handmade personalised sack that could never be filled because the toys they want today are so tiny. She has tried to carry on the traditions, but how could you send a letter up the chimney to Santa when you have gas central heating?
Jenny looked up at the aging photograph of her parents on the mantelpiece. She wished they were here to give her some advice but they had passed away many years before. The hotline to heaven wasn’t working today so there would be no words of wisdom coming from that direction.
Just then a sliver of winter sunlight came through the window and alighted on the photo. As Jenny watched the clouds chase the brightness away again she realised that she did know the answer. Families were what mattered most, not laptops or games machines or parties. They would survive a lean Christmas, the children were old enough to understand and their friends were all in similar positions and would probably be relieved at her decision.
With a smile Jenny stood and walked towards the kitchen,
‘I’ll make a big chocolate cake for after school,’ she said to herself, ‘just like mum used to make.’