Little Mandy was woken in the early hours of the morning by the torch – her squinting face bathed in the bright beam. Her younger three and a half year old sister, Lucy, stood behind the light and whispered.
“Not yet Lucy, we must wait for the morning light or Father Christmas won’t come.” Even though she could not put her finger on it; at five years of age, Mandy felt uncomfortable with her younger sister’s more leading nature. Lucy always seemed to be one step ahead on matters. Well maybe not on this occasion. “If we get up before he comes down the chimney; he won’t leave presents. We must be asleep or it doesn’t work.”
“Father Christmas been and gone.” Her tone was matter of fact as though they need not concern themselves with such things.
“How do you know that?”
“We left drink! It gone.”
The torch beam left Mandy’s face and swung across the room to the set of draws where the empty brandy glass was.
“Daddy said leave special Father Christmas lemonade before going back up chimney. Look! He drunked it.”
Mandy got out of bed, feeling the excitement swell. “He can’t come and take them back can he?”
“No, he come here first.”
“How do you know that?”
“Uncle Jim tolded me he does.”
“Yesterday.” Lucy looked pleased with her knowledge. “I said, ‘Do Father Christmas come to you?’ And he said, ‘yes.’”
“So how do you know he comes here first?”
“If he visit grown ups first; he be late and I say, ‘Will see me first?’”
“Did Uncle Jim say yes Lucy?”
“Yes.” Lucy looked agitated. “I make sure.”
“So we can go down now.” Her voice had that thrilled edge to it and now it was really Christmas. Father Christmas had been, drank his brandy and moved on to other houses. She looked at Lucy confused. “Father Christmas will be drunk when he gets home.” She knew that Father Christmas drank grown ups lemonade as her Dad sometimes did.
The torch went out and the exasperated whisper replied in the blackness. “It don’t matter, he come here first.”
“Are we going down Lucy?”
The torch came back on with the beam pointing up at the ceiling allowing Mandy to see that Lucy had her finger over her lips – the younger of the two was now firmly in control of the situation. “Be good girl. Don’t wake Mummy and Daddy.” And like the little madam she was; gently took her elder sister by the hand. “We go to Harry and Tom in their room.”
Gingerly, the two little girls tip toed out into the hallway and made for, their ten year old brother, Harry’s bedroom where he slept with their elder cousin, Tom.
It was Harry’s turn to squint in the beam and he turned away from it muttering. “Mandy, you did this last year.”
“It ain’t me, it’s Lucy.”
“I woked her up,” came the defiant whisper. “Shoosh! Or you’ll wake Mummy and Daddy.”
Harry pulled the blanket over his head and giggled at his little sister’s antics.
Mandy did likewise, relieved that her brother was quickly over being grumpy. “Its Christmas morning and Father Christmas has been.”
The covers came back down and Harry sat up with his dishevelled hair pointing in all directions. He had a big mischievous smile upon his face. His little sisters still believed in Father Christmas and he was aware of the wonderful magic it held for them. His Mother had thoroughly drilled him on not spoiling the belief and in complying; he found it exciting to see their expectant faces looking at him in wonderment.
“Lucy, did you check to see if Father Christmas drank his special lemonade?”
“Yep, he’s drunked it all up.”
Again Harry tittered. “Well done.” He gave a mock look of being serious. “You didn’t spy him through the covers did you?”
“No.” Her little tone was utterly flabbergasted. “I were sleep.”
Mandy nodded her head in agreement. “It was too dark anyway.”
“Are you sure you did not get the tiniest peep of Father Christmas drinking his special lemonade.” Harry could not help grinning and knew when his little sister was being sparing with the truth.
She looked down at the floor and pursed her tiny lips and her jaw became pointed as though trying desperately not to sulk. Her eyes slowly lifted up to stare at him as he placed his hand over his open mouth in mock dread.
“He did not see you looking did he?” Her brother’s eyes sparkled and Lucy recognised the tone of his good natured teasing. She shook her head sheepishly and was delighted to see him hold out his arms, into which she happily moved.
“Well that’s alright then.” He gave her a firm cuddle and lifted her onto the bed. “What did he look like?”
“He had big red coat and white beard.”
“He drunked lemonade, fell over, crawled out of door laughing and Mummy told him off.”
Harry giggled again remembering how tipsy his Dad was when putting out the presents, wearing the Santa outfit, and staggering up the stairs, full of inebriated tomfoolery to the girl’s room to get the Brandy that had been left for Father Christmas.
Tom rolled over and rubbed his face before yawning. He looked over defiantly – as a rebellious twelve year old sometimes do. “There’s no such…”
“Shut up Tom!” scolded Harry harshly. “They’re little girls. Don’t spoil things.”
“Yeah, we little girls,” replied Mandy and Lucy.
Both boys sniggered at Lucy’s harsh reply because she was apt to agree with all things her big brother said – even when she was not sure what they meant.
“Come on then, let’s go down stairs and see the presents, shall we Lucy? And turn the torch out if you don’t want to wake Mum and Dad.”
Lucy complied and allowed Harry to carry her along the hallway with Mandy following, holding Tom’s hand. Their cousin was now playing along dutifully for the benefit of the little girls as they made for the stairs.
Lucy gasped as they passed the open door of their parent’s room and put her hand over her mouth. She had seen something that startled her. The rest of the children smiled at her antic as combined with the quite and darkness she unwittingly lent a sense of enthusiasm to the exquisite occasion. All put fingers to their lips – even Tom, who was beginning to rediscover the wonderful innocence of bygone Christmases.
They reached the bottom of the stairs and were overjoyed to see the array of wrapped presents beneath the big beautiful Christmas tree. All except Lucy, who still had her hand over her mouth looking at them with dismay?
Harry put her down and was a little disappointed to see her looking so unsure.
Tom knelt before her and took her hand feeling robbed of a grand occasion by the little girl’s lack of joy. “What’s the matter Lucy?”
Mandy was oblivious to the boys and her sister as she moved forward to the Christmas tree and peered down at the delightful sight of wrapped presents. She was only vaguely aware off Lucy’s mumbled reply to the boy’s concerned enquiries, but turned when both hissed trying to contain their amusement as they rolled on the floor with joyous gritted teeth. They dared not allow the hilarity to escape and wake the sleeping adults.
“What you laughing at Harry? Stop it Tom – she’s only a little girl.”
Lucy was standing before the boys, as they rolled about the floor, each holding his stomach; she had a big grin on her face knowing that she had accidentally elated them in some way.
Tom got on his hands and knees and looked at Mandy. “Lucy thinks we have to go back to bed because Father Christmas as drunk too much special lemonade and can’t get up the chimney.”
“Why? He’s gone.”
Harry tried to explain between chuckles. “She said she saw him when we were on the landing.”
Lucy looked at her, not knowing whether to laugh or be worried as she whispered, “Father Christmas in bed with Mummy.”