My father’s mother died when he was about 5, and he was actually brought up by his grandparents, uncles and aunts. He told us few things about his childhood, but I particularly remember this about Christmas.
The story goes that Dad wanted toy soldiers for Christmas and although I don’t know how old he was at the time, he had been pestering everybody for weeks. He didn’t just want half a dozen either. He wanted armies, legions, battalions, the works.
He was all organised on Christmas Eve too, deciding to hang a pillow case on the bottom of his bed instead of a stocking so that they could all fit inside, so convinced that he was going to get them.
He was absolutely speechless on Christmas morning though when his pillow case was full of……….. coal.
I always felt sad at the thought of this little boy waking up to find no stocking full of goodies, and his wish not being granted. I could feel his disappointment, and hated the idea of my Dad being unhappy, particularly on Christmas Day and especially as a child.
However, when he went downstairs, apparently the entire floor was covered with tin and lead soldiers in varying colours and poses, lined up in regimental rows ready for Dad’s inspection and to do battle.
Great grandpa, Grandad, and the three uncles had all chipped in and hand painted about 300 between them to give Dad his armies. Just to give you an idea of the soldiers I’m talking about, these are not your action man figures or mass produced plastic moldings. If you have seen the films Ronin or The Forty Year Old Virgin (now there’s a contrast in movies!) , there are scenes where soldiers are being hand painted under magnifying glasses.
These were the kind that Dad wanted, and got. Just imagine what painstaking patience and time it took hand painting 300 tiny figures, to make one little boy feel special. But then to me, my Dad was. Always.