I wrote this piece in December 2013 (using the nom de plume Aunt Molly) for my mother who was living in the old age home in Meyerton at the time. I thought you might enjoy it too.
This close to Christmas, when one grows older, all discussions tend to turn to Christmases past. I was being my usual inquisitive self when I wanted to know from the small circle around the old age home’s dining room table what wishes they harboured for the coming Christmas.
There was a short, pensive silence and then the memories kicked in.
“Do you remember the nylon stockings that Dad bought for us in Cape Town for Christmas at the end of the war?” – this from my sister, two years older than myself, remembering the shortages suffered during and after the second world war. Stockings (or any decent lingerie) were still difficult to come by. That year, however, my dad pulled the ultimate magic trick and bought his two daughters each a pair of the much-coveted stockings to go with our new high heels. We were delighted and planned to wear our stockings to the New Year’s dance. The morning before the dance we washed and aired our stockings on the makeshift washing line outside the kitchen door, where we could admire the silvery shimmering lines through the window. Those days we kept a milk goat and a few chickens in the back yard. Late afternoon while we were feeding the chickens, my mother called us to the washing line on a rather shrill note. There on the washing line remained only the top halves of our stockings and to the side of the kitchen, I observed the goat chewing on fine silvery cloth.
When I was fifteen years old”, says my best friend Shelley, who is now way past that tender age, “I wished, hoped, prayed and hinted to my whole family that I would so .. so much love a beginner’s kit for makeup artists. You know, the kind that the circus clowns use, so I could practice my skills for the upcoming school concert. This was nonsense of course. I was fifteen, hot-blooded and had a boyfriend who asked me out to a Boxing Day picnic. No respectable fifteen-year-old could go out on a date without a scrap of makeup. My obliging family pulled together financially and I got me a kit complete with black mascara, blue-blue eye shadow, red-red lipstick, white face powder and a red plastic nose. I put my Christmas gift to good use, plastering on the beauty aids (not the nose though) and went off to the picnic feeling like a princess. I laughed heartily with everyone else when my new boyfriend’s best friend ‘washed’ my face with a piece of watermelon. I felt that I carried that off quite well, despite the curious glances thrown my way. When I got home that night and saw my reflection in the hall mirror, I was mortified. Streaking mascara (this was in the days before waterproof makeup) and smeared lipstick made me look and feel like the clown that everyone must have taken me for. So I stuck on my red nose and cried myself to sleep.”
“My most fervent wish was to grow hair on my chest”, says Shelley’s husband, Fred. “According to my dad, a man became a real man only when he has grown a respectable patch of hair on his chest. And more than anything else I wanted to be a man. So, when I was eleven years old, I wished that I would wake up with a chest full of hair on Christmas morning. It happened, not all at once and definitely not on that particular Christmas morning, but gradually during later years. These days I have a carpet on my chest, a forest on my back, weeds sprouting from my nose and ears and a shiny chrome dome. Weird, though, I feel less like a man and more like a primate with every passing year.”
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
So we made a pact around the table that night that this year we would wish only for really important and achievable results:
- A surprise visit from our children
- A wide gap-toothed smile from a grandchild
- A warm hug from a roomy
- A friendly handshake from a neighbour or friend
- A nice warm day full of sunshine and a leafy tree to sit under
- A day to remember with warmth and gladness