Who is Father Christmas?
Gerry lay in bed trying not to fall asleep. Whatever happened it was imperative she stayed awake or The Plan would fail. It being Christmas Eve Gerry was excited; hugely excited, so not falling asleep was quite easy. She cast her mind back to how The Plan was made. She and Peter, her older brother, had been decorating her parents en suite, secretly without their knowing. There was rather a lot of tinsel and Peter expressed concerns at wrapping it round the loo seat but Gerry had insisted.
“Shall I tell you a secret?” Peter had said – possibly in a fit of pique after losing the battle over the tinsel and the loo seat. “Father Christmas doesn’t exist.”
“Rubbish.” said Gerry. “Who else is going to bring all those presents?”
“Seriously, he isn’t real. He’s our Mum and Dad. Ben at school told me. He said it’s a secret that you only find out when you become a grown up.”
“That’s stupid. We write him a secret letter. How would Mum and Dad know what to bring us?”
“They don’t need to. They read the letter dumb-dumb.”
“But we burn it and it goes up the chimney to Santa.”
“Yeh but who helps us write it first? Anyway, how would Father Christmas have time to visit everyone?”
Hmm. Thinking about the logistics, Gerry could see why Peter might be so emphatic. There were a lot of stockings to fill in one night. All over the world, too. But then Father Christmas was magic. Moving at the speed of light would be a doddle for him, right? She said as much but Peter disagreed.
“OK, think about it. Why do all the things in my stocking always have the price labels on when all the things in yours don’t?”
Gerry shrugged, “I dunno. Dodgy elves?”
“Dodgy Dad more like. They do one each and Dad does mine and forgets to take them off.”
Gerry thought about Father Christmas some more and about her Dad. He was vague and he probably would forget to take the prices off things but surely Peter was wrong. She left him adding the finishing touches to the tinsel round the taps on their parents’ bidet and went to ask him.
“Dad, is there a secret about Father Christmas?” she asked.
“Yes... I mean no. Well there is but it’s nothing huge. You’ll find out when you’re older.” he said. When Gerry had pressed him further he’d flatly refused to say more. That made her very suspicious.
Hmm. She did some thinking and then went back to Peter.
“Alright then. I know Father Christmas DOES exist and I can prove it.”
“Yeh, yeh. Sure you can sis. Go on then.”
“Why don’t we trip him up. Then, when he falls over, it’ll make a noise, we’ll wake up and we’ll see him and we’ll know who he is won’t we?”
So that night, after Mum and Dad had said goodnight, Gerry and Peter tied Peter’s dressing gown cord from the leg of the bed to the leg of the chest of drawers. It was the darkest part of the floor and Father Christmas would have to walk over it to get to Peter’s bed. Then, trap set, the two of them lay still and waited or at least, Gerry did. Peter went to sleep and she could hear him snoring quietly. After waiting for ever, Gerry heard footsteps on the stairs.
“Wake up.” she reached across, half in and half out of bed, and yanked at Peter’s bedclothes.
“He’s coming.” said Gerry as she slithered back under her duvet.
She hoped the empty stockings were still draped across the ends of her and Peter’s beds. She risked a quick glance. Yes. She threw herself back on the pillow. Peter was awake now except that, like Gerry, he was pretending he wasn’t. Father Christmas was coming. They could hear Him walking along the hall. His clomping footsteps were accompanied by the soft rustle of paper wrapped goodies in a bag and squeaky bonk, bonk of the balloons He always tied up the ends of the stockings with as they banged against each other.
Father Christmas didn’t stuff the stockings at all. He swapped them. Gerry, who was still pretending to be asleep, felt a giant weight flop across her feet. That was cheating! But he must be in a rush so fair points for efficiency. Now he made his way to Peter’s bed but as he did so, he tripped over the dressing gown chord. He compounded the clatter he made falling to the floor by landing on one of the balloons which popped with a massive bang.
“Bugger!” shouted Father Christmas.
Gerry, and Peter, sat up in bed.
“Dad?” said Gerry. Peter turned on the bedside light.
“Gerry.” said Dad. “Did you do that?” He was chuckling.
“Yes. I wanted to trap Father Christmas. Just for a moment, you understand, so I could prove he was real. Peter said it was you and Mum.”
“Yeh. And it is. I told you.” said Peter.
“Well... I’m afraid you’re right in a sense Peter but not in the way you think. I am Father Christmas.”
“No you’re not.” said Peter.
“Oh but I am. I’m just about to start my round but I thought I’d deliver your stockings first.”
“You’re so NOT.” said Gerry on the brink of tears. She wanted Father Christmas to be real and she was upset because however lovely she thought Dad was, he wasn’t Him. “Where’s your red coat?”
“I haven’t put it on yet.” said Dad.
“But we don’t have a sleigh, or any reindeer. How do you deliver the presents?” asked Gerry suspiciously.
Dad shrugged, “By car.”
“Well, sleigh riding’s not so easy when there’s no snow.” said Dad.
“Oh yeh? And what about the elves and the reindeer, where are they?” said Peter.
“They’re in Lapland.”
“Then if you were really Father Christmas we’d live in Lapland too, right?” said Peter. Dad ran one hand through his hair.
“Not necessarily. We don’t need to you see...” he paused. “I work on contract. You don’t think Father Christmas could get to everyone himself do you? It’s a big old world. The population is increasing – more kids to visit every year. Not so much speed in his old legs any more, either and he’s knocking on a bit.”
“So... let me get this straight.” said Peter, looking doubtful. “Are you saying you’re really, actually, Father Christmas?”
“No.” Dad smiled. “But I am, round here.”
“Ohmygod I can’t believe this. Ben is so WRONG.” said Peter leaping out of bed. Gerry was hot on his heels.
“Yippee!” shouted Gerry rushing over to give Dad a hug.
“Can we come with you Dad?” chorused both children excitedly.
“No you cannot! Health and safety would never allow it.” said Dad. He put the remaining stocking on the end of Peter’s bed and helped them untie the dressing gown cord trip wire. “It’s late and you two should go to sleep. You’ve a big day in the morning.”
“No buts, or under the terms of my contract I shall have to take those away and give them to someone more deserving.”
He tucked Peter and Gerry back into their beds, kissed them both and turned out the lights.
“Goodnight kids.” he said.
Gerry and Peter listened as his footsteps receded downstairs. “Night love.” They heard him call to Mum, then the front door slammed.
“Did you hear that?” whispered Gerry.
“Yeh. He’s really gone.”
“I’m never going to be able to sleep now. I’m going to be awake all night.”
“I hope you’re not, you two.” Mum stood in the doorway, smiling. “You need all your energy for tomorrow. I hear your Dad had a bit of a trip. He’s away to work now but he left this for you, Peter.” She went and tied a new balloon to Peter’s stocking.
“I can’t believe Dad is Father Christmas.” said Gerry.
“One night a year, yes.” Mum smiled. “Good isn’t it? He has hidden depths, your Dad. Now then you two. SLEEP. It’s very late and I’m going to bed now, so you have to, too.” she told them firmly. She kissed them goodnight and they heard her moving along the corridor to the master bedroom. Gerry and Peter realised she must be as happy and proud of Dad as they were because as she walked down the hall they could hear her giggling.
M T McGuire is 42 years old but still checks inside unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia. None yet. This picture is 10 years old, but she looks much the same, except her glasses are a bit trendier now. The marrow was 18 inches long and very tasty. It took 3 days to grow.
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