Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: What happened when you or your siblings impatiently, sneakily went searching for your hidden Christmas presents?

Hidden Presents

By Janice Cutting

I still believed when my brother pushed me into the cupboard at the back of Mum’s bedroom with a panto laugh. 

Christmas was my most favourite time of year and I loved seeing the first signs of it slowly emerging into my 6 year old world. 

The first sign was the earlier arrival, each day of the dark cloak of night, laid across the trees outside my window and tucked in around the pavements and streets. The yellow street lamps turning everything into golden optimistic light. 

The second was my father’s wee grocery store, which would begin to fill up with tree-shaped towers of sweet boxes, selection boxes shaped like Santa, stockings for pets and most importantly fresh Christmas trees, tied with string and laid neatly against the front of the window. 

The next was the sharpness of the stars in the sky. I would crane my neck in the back seat of the car to look out on them, as Mum drove frantically around town running errands. There always seemed to be a big star in the night sky, brighter than all the rest, and tucked in close to the moon. I just knew that must have been the one the wise men followed.

The biggest sign that Christmas was here, was when Mum’s own handmade wise men came out to their place on the book shelf. Delicate little people adorned in beautiful robes of silk gold, taffeta lime and deep velvet red. With hand-embroidered gold braid edging, paper doily collars and sweety paper crowns. They held their precious gifts tightly in their pipe cleaner hands. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The words will be forever Christmas.

As the big day drew closer, windows lit up with Christmas trees. We used to count them as we drove, here there and everywhere on Mum’s missions. Each day there would be more and more. 

Then the visit to see actual Santa at the department store. The one we used to go to had big handled doors, leather padded doors and a Merry-Go-Round on the top floor. Santa’s grotto was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. The entrance was surrounded by moving toys singing Christmas carols enticing you into a tunnel, filled with tiny lights that led you to Santa sitting on his sleigh which was already filled with toys. I would suddenly lose my voice when he asked what I wanted for Christmas. I had no idea.

Finally, all the doors in the advent calendar were open, revealing their tiny paintings of Christmas scenes and it was time for the big fat one. 24. It was the biggest night of the year, Christmas Eve.

We’d set out the carrots, the mince pie and the whisky. Dad would always help with that one. Selecting only the best single malt and filling up almost half the glass.  

I could remember clearly the struggle of trying to get to sleep while listening out for sleigh bells in the sky, not wanting to miss out on the excitement that was happening all across the sky that night. How could he reach everyone all across the world in just one night? No one knew. 

At least not until that fateful afternoon, when my brother pushed me further into the back of the cupboard, pushing my nose into the wrapped up presents, sitting there, days before Christmas. Way before Santa had even left the North Pole.

‘Open one,’ he encouraged ‘then seal it up and you will see it back out under the tree on Christmas morning.’

‘But mine comes from Santa,’ I pleaded, ‘it says so on the label.’ My brother is seven years older than me and apparently always much wiser. Although lately I am not so sure.

‘It’s all Mum and Dad,’ he said, ‘Anyway, I opened yours too, one of them is a tape recorder.’

‘I don’t believe you!’ I cried as I sat back on my heels, staring at the pile of neatly wrapped presents in the back of the tall built-in wardrobe. It was getting hard not to believe him and at the same time hard to believe anyone about anything.

I picked myself up and ran down to the kitchen to find Mum. Tears bursting out of my eyes, shoulders heaving up and down. It took a while of clinging on to her waist and looking up at her to make sure she was still Mum, before the tears subsided and I could speak.

‘Does eating Brussel sprouts not make you grow up to be big and strong?’ I asked her

 ‘Of course they do? Now are you going to tell me why you are crying?’ she said holding me  tightly into her flour dusty apron as she made yet one more batch of mince pies.

 ‘I can’t tell you,’ I said, ‘I don’t want it to be all over.’

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