How old were you when you remember your first Christmas?
I can’t remember mine but the year I got a letter from Santa under the tree instead of a present remains firmly in my memory. I was 7.
We’d woken up Christmas morning and our stockings were on the bottom of our beds. It was wonderful how Santa always thought to bring them upstairs from the fireplace so that we could stay snug and warm in bed as we opened them. We had proper nylon stockings too in those days, and in the toe were nuts, an orange, an apple or Pomegranate, and then the ‘good stuff’, sugar mice, sweets, a game (cards, dominoes, anything that didn’t need batteries), toys, bubbles, crayons, colouring books and all manner of little things.
Downstairs, there were loads of parcels round the tree, and one envelope with my name on it.
I don’t remember what everyone else had, and although I had my own little pile of gaily wrapped gifts, the envelope was left until last. It was a letter from Santa, apologising that he hadn’t been able to deliver my Christmas present down the chimney. I was almost in tears until Dad told me to carry one reading. I had some instructions to follow, one of which was to retrieve the torch from my morning stocking, ask Dad to get the ladder, and climb up into the attic. I poked my head through the gap and shone my torch into the darkness.
‘I can’t see anything Daddy! It’s dark up here and I’m afraid of spiders!’
Dad was close behind with his arms either side of me on the ladder and told me to shine my torch over by the chimney breast. I could just make out something shiny, big and round.
‘What is it? It’s big! What is it? What is it?!’ I cried excitedly.
‘Come on down lass, and let me get up into the attic.’
I was bouncing up and down at the foot of the ladder with impatience (remember, I was only 7!)
‘What is it? Let me see! Let me see!’
First one wheel appeared, then the other (supported by a thick rope Dad had taken up with him) came through the hatchway.
‘Hold onto the handlebars lass and I’ll lower it down for you’.
Ever so gently (and slowly) my shiny new bike was brought within my grasp and I guided it down on to the landing. It was wonderful, and my favourite colour, green. I just stood there, touching the frame, the bell, the seat, all of it. It was all mine, and I forgave Santa for not putting it by the tree.
Dad secured the hatch, climbed down and removed the ladder, then carried the bike downstairs.
‘Shall we go outside so that you can ride it?’
‘No! It’ll get all dirty! I don’t want to spoil it. Can’t I ride it in here?’
And so the lounge furniture was moved as far back as possible, a ‘pathway’ was made and I rode my Christmas present up and down on the carpet for about an hour.
Over the next few days (and eventually progressing outside), Dad followed behind with the walking stick hooked into the saddle. It took a while to get my balance as there were no stabilisers, and as all kids do when they realise they’re ‘riding solo’, I fell off……….a lot. But Dad was always there to encourage me to get back on, never giving up that I’d finally get the hang of it. I did, after about 2 years!