It’s early on Christmas Eve, just after seven. Still and overcast outside; mild but it will warm up later. Not too much though, the high thirties days are promised for later in the week. This year we get a temperate Christmas.

The house is quiet. Lulled by the low cloud, birds have slept in; their morning chatter drifts through open windows. Inside it’s silent. The boy is still abed and Cal has gone shopping for Christmas supplies. I’m going early, she said, it’ll be nuts by nine o’clock.

Silhouetted against the window is the tree, dark against the grey-blue sky. Even in the semi-dark I can see the drooping fronds. If there was more light I could see the tree’s sagging shoulders and wilted waist.

Cal ordered an Oxfam Christmas tree. It’s well covered with decorations and tinsel, but they don’t hide the desiccated limbs and browning pine needles. The tree arrived on a stinker of a day—a hundred degrees in the old currency—and never recovered. Always striving for perfection, Cal wanted to buy another one and start again but I couldn’t face the dismantle-rebuild, the floor covered with scented hypodermics, so I said no. As each day has passed I’ve felt more mean.

In the afternoons when the summer sun slams through the window she looks sadly at our dying tree but it’s too late to do anything now. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the boy transitioning to adolescence. He’s holding tenaciously onto ‘believing’ and we’re going along because we’re no more ready to surrender the innocence of childhood than he is. A part of me, a hard-nosed bit, wants to announce to all and sundry that this will be the last year of  Santa. Never liked the materialistic old bastard anyway. But I won’t, and even as I write I’m working out how to stop the boy reading this, because he is entitled to his naivety, to his participation in this December ritual. Shit, his Daddy has even played Father Christmas and got paid for it!

Decorating the tree is a Mother and child thing in our house. My contribution is to hang a couple of Christmas LP covers on the wall and a string of lights in the front window.

When I hung the lights this year, there was the usual awkwardness of tangled wires and the nervous tinkle of the glass globes knocking together. As I hooked them around the edge of the frame, they tapped against the glass, a rhythm evoking memories. We used to be on your family Christmas tree, they whisper. A spindly fake pine made magic by the deep, vivid colour of the decorative candlelights. These lights are as old as I am, still intact and still willing to cast their fifties glow into a different suburban street.

When I turned them on this year, they flickered then went dark. I carefully went around the perimeter, pinching the globes into their sockets. After all, they’ve been sitting in an old suitcase in the garage all year. Touching each candle seems a way of re-connecting with them, bringing them to life. When I get to the last globe, a red one (they are the best—deep scarlet with a glowing heart) it breaks into my hand. I’ve squeezed too hard and the glass, a half-century old and more, has fractured. Oh. There’s some anguish in my voice. Cal comes in to check I’m all right.

It’s OK, I say, but there’s a tightness in my throat. She hears it and says nothing. I hold out my hand with the crimson shards. The family Christmas lights, I just broke one. She nods. You OK? I nod back. We’re both thinking of my mother’s death, in April but so long ago. That’s quite all right in one way, but the death of the lights somehow hurts.

I scrabble around in the box, so old it is a collection of bits of cardboard rather than a container, and find a couple of loose globes from another, long defunct set. I screw one into the string and flick the power point. The lights burst into life, except for the odd one. It remains dark, but completes the circuit.



36 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS EVE

    • Thanks Jeff. Really pleased you enjoyed it.
      I wonder if part of the reason is that the boy (12 ½) knows that he sometimes features at Lonely Keyboards. He hasn’t shown any interest in the writing at Vinyl Connection! Anyway, I told him this one contained ‘adult themes’ and he seemed happy enough with that.
      Hope the Season treats you and yours kindly.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. When hanging a string of lights, if one is able to tell that the bulbs, when they clink together, are made of glass, you know for certain that they’re from a particular era. So many of the light strings made these days have such small bulbs they barely make a sound when jostled together. Beautiful sentiments–loss of a parent, child growing up–worth reflecting on at this time of year. And how nice to learn that Mrs. Connection’s name is Cal. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Modern things often seem cheap and soulless when compared to counterparts from earlier eras, don’t they?

      There was a conversation about naming rights, as you might imagine. The mutually acceptable solution is much like your own.

      Warm seasonal wishes from the Southern Hemisphere.

      Liked by 2 people


  3. We’ll have that decision about Kris Kringle to make in a couple years too – so far, still (I like it as you say) participating in the December ritual.
    And speaking of said ritual, I suppose it’s Christmas Day already where you are, happy Christmas day to you, Cal & the boy!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Our childhood Christmas lights were a set identical to your relic. Having the same problem as you experienced (but 55 odd years earlier) my father shaved the scalloped edge of the light fitting off so that he could screw in a foreign bulb. It worked, but clearly at a cost to my aesthetic sensibilities as I never had any urge to keep them but was instantly charged by that picture.

    Liked by 2 people


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