This month we’re going to bring you some seasonal pieces written by members of Chudleigh Writers’ Circle. Today, Elizabeth Ducie tells the story of a young girl who fears her Christmas is about to be ruined, when her mother attempts a Good Deed.
‘I’ve invited Mr Durani for Christmas Day. He’s going to be on his own, far from home.’ It was 22nd December when my mum dropped this bombshell. I stared at her, horrified.
‘But Grannie and Grandpa are going to be here — and Auntie Maude.’
‘One more won’t make any difference — and we always cook far too much food.’
‘But you know how Grannie is about strangers — and Grandpa will start talking about all these foreigners taking our jobs…it’s going to be awful.’
‘Nonsense, they’ll like him—and besides, he’s only here on a job swap. Miss Hanson’s over in India, looking after his class. Grandpa won’t object to that.’
My mum was forever bringing home waifs and strays, especially at Christmas. There was the little old woman who’d fainted outside our gate. Mum brought her in for ten minutes to rest and have a nip of brandy. She’d left several hours and three quarters of a bottle later. As my dad put her in the taxi, she was singing Jingle Bells at the top of her voice.
Once mum found a cat shivering in our front garden. She’d fed it and warmed it by the fire, after which it had turned into a miniature tiger, biting and scratching every one, making life hell for Sandy the dog and clearly expecting to be the boss of us all. Two weeks later, my mum admitted defeat and gave it to a local farmer with a mouse problem.
Now we had Mr Durani spending Christmas Day with us. As that dance judge would say: ‘it’s going to be a diaaaster, dahling’. Mr Durani is a nice man, but he’s a Hindu and always so serious. How’s he going take to Auntie Maude singing Christmas carols all morning? Are we still going to be able to have our crib on the hall table next to the front-door? Will he understand about crackers, silly hats and really terrible jokes?
When 25th arrived, it didn’t seem any different from previous years. Loads of presents around the tree and in my stocking. Mum still insisted on leaving that at the end of my bed even though I’m a big girl now and know it’s not really a fat old man climbing down the chimney into my bedroom (thank goodness).
At exactly midday, there was a knock at the door. I opened it and gasped, staring at the rotund figure in red standing on the doorstep, loaded up with parcels.
‘Ho, ho, ho,’ he laughed, ‘Merry Christmas! I hope you haven’t opened all your presents yet—I want to add mine to the pile. Then I want to greet these grandparents of yours. Must treat the elderly relatives with respect, mustn’t we? Oh, that turkey smells wonderful.’
As the first Indian Santa I’d ever seen bounded into our house, I caught my mum’s amused glance and smiled back at her. It looked like this Christmas visitor was going to work out just fine.
Merry Christmas from Elizabeth
The Christmas Visitor was first published in Parcels in the Rain and Other Writing, a collection of short stories, flash fiction, travel stories and childhood memories. It would make a perfect stocking filler.