It's approaching that time of year again. As a young girl I would wait impatiently for the wheel to creak round the twelve months, to that day that the big man in red would visit us. There was a family tradition of Santa's helpers leaving little gifts on the hearth in the weeks up to Christmas. My gran started it I'm told.
We lived in the kitchen, it was the heart of the home. The other rooms stood bereft of human occupants while the kitchen held us in its bosom and absorbed the joys, the wails, the life of our family. It's still doing it after s hundred odd years. So when Santa told his helpers to leave the little girl who lived down Spot Lane, a surprise gift, naturally it was left in front of the kitchen fire. I don't know how Granny did it. Did she possess some magical power? Was she an expert in sleight of hand? Could she hypnotise me into not seeing? I've no idea. All I know is that we'd be sitting there in front of the blazing hot fire that was held beneath the oven. Our legs and faces red with heat. She'd be sat, in her flowery pinny, red beret half covering her wispy hair, her feet snug inside her pompom slippers, on her chair to the right of the fire, I'd be on the little dolly stool* to the left, probably leaning on the wall behind me.
"What was that noise?" She'd whisper loudly in a dramatic manner, her head thrust forward tilted to one side, eyes rolling from side to side in a quizzical way. "Shush, I've heard a noise up the chimney!"
Mother would join in then, "oh yes, I've heard it too! Debbie go look outside see what it is."
Debbie, that is I, didn't want to go look outside in the dark. Debbie wanted to stay right there on the stool safe with gran. But before I could even stand up somehow laid there on the hearth, in front of the fire there'd be a chocolate bell, a chocolate bauble, a small chocolate Santa. I never saw it being placed there! Right in front of me! How??
"Santa's been Santa's been" I'd leap up on chubby little legs, chocolate gift clenched in my hand, waving it under granny's nose, shoving it in mother's face. "Look ! Santa's been!!!" They'd both feign surprise, although the look on granny's face was one of sheer delight certainly not pretended. Her little granddaughter, her pride and joy, the one she held so dear to her heart, was in the thralls of happiness over a small chocolate.
"You know what you have to do now, Debbie, go on then..." Before she could finish I'd have thrust my head as close to the fire as possible and shouting up the chimney "Thank you Santa! Thank you very much, thank you Santa!" I was raised to have manners, so even at the risk of singeing my eyebrows I was determined to make Santa hear my thanks.
And so, I'll leave you with the image of a roaring fire, a bonny old lady sat on her chair with such a beautiful smile on her face as she watched her granddaughter carefully unwrapping the gift from Santa. And look, see that pure love on her face when she takes the tiny nibble of chocolate offered by her granddaughter.
"this is for you granny. I love you granny so you can have some too! "
* a three legged contraption made from a washing dolly, about a foot high, made from wood and painted white. It also had a hole in the seat where the handle once was, which would suck down your bum cheeks if you didn't sit right.