A rather dark story for the pre-Christmas period.
Perhaps it could’ve been done better. Handled better – differently.
There had been a time when the days stretched ahead, pages remaining on the calendar, lists yet to be made, a childhood fizz of memory in the air. Every year’s the same. Jan began September with a combination of New Year zeal and the sort of satisfaction that comes from revising hard for an exam when all your favourite topics come up. This year she would get it sorted, get on top of it all, get it done early, planned, foolproof, prepared. They even say ‘all wrapped up’, don’t they? How about that?
She sobbed a little, just a few sentimental tears, quietly into a cuff. You have to be careful at things like this – the nativity, the showpiece – too much snivelling, when it’s not even your own child – well that can look weird. But it was so hard not to. All those earnest little faces, vestiges of babyhood, bright, puppy-eyed little ones, so much ahead of them. And so much pride! It was the pride more than anything. She felt every parent’s and grandparent’s pride like it was her own child playing Mary, or Joseph, or the sheep, or whatever. She was porous to the emotions of other people – it all seeped into her skin. And of course it had to come back out again. By the time her Jack came on, silver foil covered crown on his head, she was almost dry of tears, but managed a snotty sniff of acknowledgement for his performance. He was quite wise for his age. He would be a man one day. What kind of man, she wondered?
Later, much later, after it had all calmed down, she had time to reflect. It had been a busy day, a really busy day. An early start, up at five, to get the turkey in, well of course that didn’t help. But stupid, stupid woman! She should have been more careful. Not realising how much noise she was making, because she was rushing, because she wanted to get back to bed, another hour please, just another hour, then it would all be fine. It was just one spoon that clattered off the worktop, rattling into the dog’s dish that God-help-me she should have cleared up the night before, then maybe none of this would have happened, but she’d been so busy with the veg and the stockings and starting the table settings and remembering to get the cream and drinks out of the shed. And now that one dish was her undoing, amplifying the crashing of the one little spoon, sending echoes across the hard surfaces of the kitchen and all around the room, bouncing off the ceiling, and just enough, just enough to wake up the baby. Jasper, in the room above, started his squealing, his no-nonsense, I’m-telling-you, come-get-me-NOW howl. And that was the end of it. Millie and Lucas, the first year, now in nursery, that they had really shared in the anticipation, well they were not going to ignore this. First one set of feet, then two. Jasper bellowing, Jack shouting ‘Is it morning? Has he been?’
Four children. Four fatherless children. It was a bit quieter in her head now. She began to wonder where they were, the four children, four fatherless children. Of course, they didn’t start the day fatherless. And maybe if she hadn’t dropped that spoon…. Well… But if the lazy oaf had got out of bed and helped her, maybe they would still all be together now.