Claire never forgave me for spoiling Christmas. When she got to eleven years old and still believed in Santa Claus, I told her the truth.
“You said it was wrong to tell a lie…but you’ve been lying all this time!”
“It’s part of making Christmas magical…” I tried to explain.
“You’re just a liar!”
She ran up to her room, slamming the door, making the light fittings rattle. I sat, shaken and bereft, thinking I was a terrible mother.
Christmas was never the same after that. Claire never looked forward to it with the excitement and wonder of before. She never put the tinsel fairy on the tree or licked the paper strips for the bright chains to hang around the ceilings. She never joined in with carol singing or stirring the pudding. If I suggested a trip to see Santa’s Grotto at the local shopping centre, she would storm off in tears of frustrated rage. Christmas became a low-key event with little preparation or fuss. The presents under the tree seemed pointless and shallow. The magic had gone.
I waited for the time when Claire had children of her own. I hoped that with grandchildren things would be different.
“Don’t think I’ll lie to my kids like you did to me.” Claire said when this thought popped out of my mouth the day she told me she was expecting.
“Well you know, Christmas isn’t the same for children without Santa.”
Claire tutted and the conversation ended. In my heart though, I hoped she would soften once the baby was old enough to understand about Christmas.
It was Christmas Eve. I bubbled with excitement because Claire and her family were coming to stay. I couldn’t wait to see little George. When Claire explained they were moving to the Scottish Highlands, I was upset at the thought of rarely seeing my grandson. It had been over a year since I had visited them in their new home. He had grown into a happy, curious four-year-old. This was our first Christmas together so I had made enormous effort. I didn’t care whether George believed in Santa Claus or not, I wanted it to be special.
The doorbell rang just as I took the final batch of mince pies from the oven. The house filled with their sweet, spicy scent.
“Merry Christmas!” I said as I opened the door.
“Grandma, Merry Christmas!” George replied; his voice musical with its Scottish lilt.
“Hi, Mum.” Claire looked flustered from the journey. She held out a bag of presents, as if it contained something distasteful. “Dan’s got the luggage.”
We settled down to a pot of tea and mince pies in front of the fire. George looked around, admiring the decorations. He stood by the Christmas tree; the twinkling lights cast patterns on his smooth cheeks.
“It’s pretty, Grandma. Mummy doesn’t decorate our house.” George shrugged his shoulders in disappointment.
“You know what I’ve told you, George. Christmas is an old-fashioned tradition. Not everyone celebrates it. We don’t.” Claire said patiently.
“But we are this year, aren’t we Grandma?” George hopped up and down in excitement.
That evening, after a warming meal of squash soup and crusty home-made bread, George helped me put the presents under the tree. He jumped with joy and satisfaction as he carefully placed each gift.
“This one’s important, Grandma…” he said putting it at the front, “It’s for you.”
“Oh, thank you George. I look forward to opening that tomorrow.”
I passed him another present, “Where shall we put this one?”
“Who’s it for?” George asked, his brow furrowing in concentration.
“Oh…I don’t know. The label’s fallen off.” I said.
“That one must be from Santa Claus, then. I’ll put it next to yours ‘cos it’s special.”
“From Santa Claus?” I said.
“Yes, he never puts a label on.” George stated, in a matter-of-fact manner.
“So, you believe in Santa Clause then?” I asked, a slight flutter in my stomach.
George looked towards the kitchen, where Claire and Dan chattered happily as they did the washing up. “Yes, I do…but don’t tell Mummy. It’s a secret. She doesn’t believe in Santa Clause, you know.”
I gave George a hug.
“You’re a good little helper.” I smiled.
The magic had returned.
I hope you have enjoyed my Christmas stories. Thank you to everyone who has read my blog this year. Have a very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!