It didn’t snow this year, but it doesn’t matter. Mrs White (née Flynn) doesn’t like the snow anyway. It makes her joints flare up and she’s turning seventy next year, you know. She doesn’t need the bother. And anyway, the last time it snowed Young Davey McNally broke his arm sledding on a lid he stole from someone’s bin. It was a tiresome affair altogether, so Mrs White is happy to see its repetition foregone for at least another twelve months.
She spends Christmas Day with her son and his family, who come over from England to see her. Coventry. Or is it Exeter? Mrs White supposes all those English towns are all the same, really. Their house is lovely. Thatched roof and bay windows and a kitchen island of all things! When Peter showed his mother pictures of that kitchen, she commented that it was the three times the kitchen she hobbles about in. Peter had laughed at that, but Mrs White did not find it at all funny. He couldn’t even make scrambled eggs. What was he doing with a kitchen like that?
Christmas Day in Mrs White’s house is always a very tasteful affair. She spends the entire month leading up to the day preparing the house for the boys, her grandchildren. There are two of them (seven and nine – where has the time gone?) and by that logic, Mrs White supposes that means double the decorations. Her husband, Mr John White, would have disapproved. He was what Mrs White liked to call cretinous. He was a man whom would not part with his coin if he had a gun to his head. Mrs White’s yearly splurge on new Christmas decorations would surely have given him a heart attack, if a stroke hadn’t already done the job. What he didn’t know, couldn’t hurt him. And it made the boy’s faces light up in ways she had spent twelve months imagining. She knew her husband would not have held that one happiness from her.
Her son and his family stay until New Year’s Eve, whereupon they leave early in the morning to be back in England for the romantic allure of the countdown that subsequent evening. She doesn’t quite get the appeal anymore, but she can remember the excitement of her youth enough not to begrudge them that. Mrs White tries, as she does every year, to tempt them to a full fry before they depart, but each time without fail her son politely refuses. He was raised well; this she prides herself on. She only wishes she seen him more than for a few days a year. As long as he’s happy, she reminds herself, her own happiness an accessory which she will only wear at Christmas.
She kisses the boys each once on the head, and thanks the Lord that it was another year they haven’t come home with an English accent. But then she realises, as she always does, watching her son and his family get into their taxi and drive away, that this isn’t their home. And then, once they are gone, and once Mrs White (née Flynn) is sure that her son and his family are safe, and they are happy, she begins taking down the Christmas decorations. She starts with the tree, replacing every bauble and string of lights back into their boxes to be stored under the stairs until their time rolls back around.
They have served their purpose. They have brought laughter and happiness into her home once again without fail, and although she will have to wait another year to feel that special kind of happiness — that happiness that shines as brightly as the tiny lights shaped like stars on the tree — she is thankful.
Jamie Ryan Anderson writes from County Down, Ireland. He is a graduate of English with Creative Writing from Queens University, Belfast and is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and joy of the season to all!