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mike
Chapter 53A
Sun Feb 11, 2018 12:08
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CHAPTER 53 - CHRISTMAS EVE
When I was a boy we didn't begin to celebrate Christmas until December 24th. That was when Mother and I went shopping to get the few gifts that a boy can afford from his pocket money plus a sub from Father as like as not. With a younger brother and two sisters I could get all my presents in one place, Woolworths being the usual emporium. I refer to my parents in this formal way because they both have always loathed the popular slang such as Pa or the Old Man and my mother thinks 'Mum' and 'Dad' are strictly working class contractions for lazy speakers (in her words.)

Father would come home with a tree and after tea we set to work decorating it and wrapped our gifts to put under it. Of course that was how I saw the proceedings in those days of my ealy childhood, not realising how much more it entailed for my parents who had probably done their shopping months earlier. So from my point of view Christmas began on Christmas Eve and to this day I feel slightly offended as shopkeepers seem to start earlier each year with their advertising.

I mention this because its my excuse for never being prepared for the event in a timely manner. It always seems to come as a surprise to me and I think its because of this early fixed notion that everything could be, should be, left till Christmas Eve although by now I should know better and be prepared for it but I never am.

It always seemed so exciting that everything should all happen like that. After we'd done the tree it was time for the Carol Service at church and after that it was bedtime somewhat earlier than usual because thats what you did to make the big day come quicker! So even now in my late 20's I look forward to the same hectic rush and to that end I popped Tom and my luggage in the MG and made a beeline for Mothers house which will always be Home to me no matter what.

When I arrived there I was, of course, still slightly surprised to realize that there would be no last minute anything except in my case since I had still got a couple of purchases to make and my gifts to wrap which my Mother found most amusing. I tried to explain the importance of the tradition from my point of view but it wasn't seen that way by either parent who had apparently expected a leisurely afternoon and evening as a family.

"We were looking forward to playing a few games together and hearing about your work, Tolbert" said my father "your mother has invited some friends over for this evening"
"But I thought we'd be attending the Carol Service!" I said somewhat put out by this news.
"Oh no dear. Your father sounds like a tone deaf bullfrog and we only used to go because you were a choirboy. I'd rather stay home and listen to the radio or any carol singers that might happen by" added Mother.

Fortunately they had no objection to my request to bring Tom along, so only slightly disgruntled I did my last minute gift buying quickly and paid the shop assistants to wrap my gifts for me. Then at least I'd be able to make them happy by playing the games my father was looking forward to, or rather I should say the games that my mother had blamed him for since she's the one that enjoys them.

It turned out to be an enjoyable evening after all though I couldn't really get into the meat of the conversation I had hoped to have with my parents since a lot of what I'd been doing was officially hush hush at the Colonels request. Much later after their guests had departed I gave my father a condensed version of events and lent him my notes to read up on the details. My father has always been a man who likes to turn in early and then sits up half the night in the wee small hours drinking tea and reading the newspapers thoroughly.

My mother relies on his version of events and will usually wait till he's ready to give her his opinion which is not to say she isn't a shrewd evaluator in her own right but she says 'Your Father always puts his finger on the crux of the matter', which indeed he does. So it was after midnight when I finally went to bed relieved that one aspect of my childhhod memories of Christmas would not be doing a reprise. At least no one would be shouting with joy and ripping off gift wrappings at some ungodly hour. I can still remember my fathers wrath when my brother and I had a capgun fight in the pre-dawn hours!

I fell asleep grinning at that memory accompanied as it was by my fathers famous ultimatum of "NOW!" which terminated all disputes and wasn't either a follow up or an explanatory term. 'NOW!' just meant shut up and stop what you're doing immediately as you value your life. It was the oral equivalent to whatever term precedes drastic retribution and is your final awful warning. You didn't need any further explanation, it meant unconditional surrender NOW or face the consequences.

My father never really lost his temper with me and a good thing too because his wrath was something to behold. He was a very powerfully built man, had swum for England and still played water polo occasionally and squash regularly despite his doctor's warning that it put too much strain on his heart. He was the yardstick I used with which to evaluate myself and other men. If I thought a man would not have been acceptable to my father then the same was true for me.

I think it's important to have a parent that sets the standard for measuring oneself against.

CHRISTMAS DAY (I'll post this as Chapter 53 B later today)

    • Consider the Praise... - sarge, Sun Feb 11 12:55
      ...to have been lavished. Grin! I await the B-part with anticipation. I would say you shouldn't beat yourself about telling us things like told this chapter. You might see it as marking time and... more
      • Re: Consider the Praise... - roger, Mon Feb 12 09:26
        This Christmas Eve episode ,to me, gives some insight into why and who Tolbert is.
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