We are now a few days into December, and what everyone needs in December is a collection of wonderful Christmas short stories to put them in the festive mood! And what better than 12 Days of Krista May Rose, inspired by the traditional song, 12 Days of Christmas.
Krista relays various stages of her life, through her Christmas experiences, from pre-birth to old age. Christmas is a time in which everyone has shared experiences; waiting for Father Christmas to come, the school Christmas play, awkward Christmas dinner at the in-laws', sale shopping. Krista leads you through these, as well as her hen night, an Aussie barbie Christmas, a trip to the hospital with her sister for an ultrasound scan, and the anniversary of her mother's death.
Christmases aren't always happy, but they are always eventful.
It’s Christmas. It’s 1981. I am not yet born and yet I am very much alive. I let my mother know this on a regular basis in a variety of ways. Right now I am wriggling and twisting and making myself comfortable on her bladder. She, not happy by my movement, is clenching her muscles and running up the stairs, letting out a frustrated whine as her fingers forget how to unbutton buttons. When she returns she sits in the armchair watching my father prepare Christmas dinner. The smell of the meat roasting makes her feel a bit nauseous so she sits at a safe distance from the kitchen; close enough to keep an eye on my father just in case he causes irreversible damage on a similar scale to his exploits eight months ago, but far enough away to avoid vomiting all over the floor.
It’s Christmas. It’s one more sleep until Father Christmas comes. I can’t wait. Mum is cleaning the house. She’s singing along to her Christmas tape. Wizzard wish it could be Christmas every day. So do I. It’s the best time of year. The lights and songs and food and presents and snow. It’s just so amazing. Not that it’s snowing today. It’s really cold outside. People are walking past wearing big woolly hats and scarves and gloves. They look frozen. I’m not cold. My toes are snuggly warm inside my slippers. Mum calls me into the kitchen. She’s standing by the oven stirring a saucepan. It smells yum. She picks up a bowl from the draining board and dollops two giant spoonfuls of porridge in the bowl. Some dribbles down the side. She sprinkles some sugar on the top and then she passes it to me. It’s really warm. I stir the sugar into the gloopy porridge. It looks like mud. I go into the living room and turn on the television. I eat my breakfast and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s snowing there in America. It’s not snowing here. I wish it would. I wish it looked like a Christmas card all glittery and sparkly and white.
It’s Christmas. It’s the last day of school. Miss Timms seems very excited and happy. She calls the register. Everyone’s here. We line up by the door and go into the hall for assembly. We sit down. Everyone is talking. Mr Murdoch jumps out from behind the piano wearing a Father Christmas hat and a long bit of gold tinsel around his neck like a scarf. Everyone stops talking and starts laughing. Mr Welsh sits down at the piano and shuffles his sheet music. Mr Murdoch presses a button on the side of the overhead projector and it flickers into life, displaying the words to Away In A Manger on the wall at the front. Mr Welsh starts playing the piano and everyone sings.
Partridge & Pear Tree
It’s Christmas. It’s the end of September. The barometer needle still points to ‘sunny’ and the mercury has settled itself in the low 20s. Slowly, the shops have started sneaking packs of Christmas cards and dusty tinsel onto their shelves. Everything is half price and people are buying it. As I walk down the aisles, past the glitter and the sparkle and the motion activated dancing snowmen, the shops’ music systems intersperse classic Christmas anthems amongst the usual middle of the road pop drivel that is played on a continuous loop. Someone somewhere has been paid a fortune to scientifically produce a playlist that encourages people to buy more than they actually want. The songs can’t be too aggressive or too relaxing, just in case they heighten the emotions and cause unnecessary outbursts of excitement. The aisles would be full of old people rolling around on the floor, clutching at their chests and making the experience of shopping more frustrating than it usually is. The songs have to be easy listening, nonchalant, blah. It’s called muzak apparently and there’s a skill to it, and it drives me crazy. I work in one of these shops.
It’s Christmas. It’s my boyfriend’s birthday. “It’s so unfair,” he tells me all the time. Not just at Christmas, but all the time. Whenever anyone in the world has a birthday at any time of the year, he ruins their day by complaining that he doesn’t get to have a birthday because of Christmas. “Out of the other 364 days in the year, my parents thought it would be a good idea to give birth to me on Christmas Day,” he tells me all the time. It’s the same thing, all the time. Ok, I know his parents weren’t to know that he would be born on Christmas Day, but if they were going to conceive a baby on or around the 25th of March they should have known that the baby would be born on or around the 25th of December. Or am I the only one here who knows it takes nine months to grow a baby?
It’s Christmas. It’s thirty-two degrees outside and twenty-nine degrees in the shade. I’m three weeks into my six month trip around the world. I’m sitting on the deck looking out over the beach with a beer in my hand and a barbecue waiting to start sizzling behind me. Everyone’s out surfing but it’s too hot for me. I’m far too English for my own good. They call me ‘the lobster’. The sunburn has become my natural colour now. I glow in the dark. Father Christmas could have used me to guide his sleigh last night. It doesn’t even hurt anymore. That’s a lie. It hurts like hell. People slap the backs of my legs whenever they get the chance. They laugh. I laugh. I cry on the inside. The beach umbrella that’s towering over my head is only just enough protection to keep me cool. I’m still sweltering.
It’s Christmas. It’s our last few days of freedom. Well, it’s not really, but that’s what everyone says. Everyone being my girlfriends and my sister. Not that I’m one to be a sheep and follow the crowd, but they want a party and I could do with a good night out, so who am I to argue? Jenny’s drunk already. She’s been drunk since Tuesday. She doesn’t need an excuse. She’s singing along to one of Mum’s Christmas compilation CDs while sitting on the toilet. The bathroom door is open. I can’t find the cork screw. I shout up to Jenny to ask if she has it. She doesn’t answer. She’s sitting on the floor with her knickers around her ankles warbling incoherently into a shampoo bottle. I love her.
It’s Christmas. It’s a boy. My sister Jenny is lying on a hospital bed in a crunchy paper gown that is hitched up around her baby bump. Her belly glistens with green goo and the nurse smears it all over her skin with a contraption that looks like a large plastic penis. She giggles and swoons as she taps her fingers on my thigh to the sound of the baboon baboon baboon heartbeat. The alien foetus pulses on the monitor next to my sister’s head. I’m surprised they can even tell that it’s a baby. It looks more like the first ever televised monarch’s Christmas speech in 1932. A large headed creature bumbling behind a television screen. The nurse points out his head and his fingers and his legs and I nod along even though I can’t see what she’s describing. Jenny squeals like a police car siren and her words become jumbled and inaudible. She cries. I hold her hand and look at the pictures of babies on the wall. Jenny’s ingrown human looks nothing like the pictures on the wall and I hope it never does. They’re all cute and adorable and smiley. I hope her spawn ends up looking like her.
It’s Christmas. It’s half past ten in the morning. We’re at Oliver’s parents’ house this year. They’re a bit posh and their house is far too clean and tidy for my liking. They have paper coasters that they put over the normal coasters so that they don’t get dirty. I’m perched on the edge of their cream and beige sofa holding on to my mug of tea with dear life so as not to spill a drop of brown liquid on their pale oatmeal carpet. Miss Marple isn’t welcome here with her grubby paws and messy eating habits so she’s spending Christmas with my parents. They don’t mind. They miss having a dog in the house since Big Bird and David Bowie died so I know they’ll make a fuss of her.
It’s Christmas. It’s the first day of the sales. Jenny is bundling her brood into the back of her people carrier. Valentino refuses to get dressed. Jenny shoves a pair of welly boots into my hand and points to her son. I force his feet into the boots and wrap a coat around his Superman pyjamas. I don’t dare let go of him. I don’t know where he’d end up. Jenny comes in and carries him under her arm to the car. She straps him into his seat and receives a kick to the face. She gives him a bar of chocolate to keep him quiet. Merry-Belle is sleeping next to him. Even when he sticks his half eaten chocolate bar into her ear she stays asleep. Cherry Cola is sucking her thumb and reading a book, and when I say book, I mean one of her mother’s trashy celebrity magazines, and when I say read, I mean she’s turning the pages and laughing, and when I say turning the pages, I mean she’s chewing on the paper. It’s keeping her quiet so I don’t mind. I spray anti-freeze onto the windscreen and scrape the ice off. It seeps through my gloves.
It’s Christmas. It’s a year since my mother died. It seems like a lot longer than that, but it’s not. It’s been a tough year. The worst year imaginable. I’ve survived, just. Dad hasn’t. He’s alive but he doesn’t live anymore. He performs all the basic animal actions but no more than absolutely necessary. He sleeps, occasionally. Mainly with the help of drugs or alcohol. He eats, occasionally. But it’s a struggle. He can’t seem to muster the effort. It’s painful to watch. A year ago today I lost two parents, not one.
It’s Christmas. It’s dark outside. It’s dark inside. It’s dark inside me. I’ve not seen one person walk past my house today. They must be at home. With their families. With their friends. Must be nice. The birds fly past. The birds fly past and they take no notice of me. I notice them but they don’t return the compliment. The trees are bare. They’re tall and naked. They claw at the sky with jagged talons. Witches’ fingers. Nails scraping down a blackboard night sky. They make me shudder. They wave at me, those bony hands, those skeletal hands, deformed and destitute. All knuckles and empty promises.