Despite a near death experience with Santa, Christmas 1976, was great. The night before, I’d half-dragged a sleepy Timothy into the living room, still warm from an untended fire despite the gap under our front door. Mum’s cigarette glowed like Rudolph’s nose and a magical fog clung to the tree. It was quite beautiful, apart from the smell.
The last present Mum and Dad ever gave me started a tradition of buying Christmas number ones. We’d bought Bohemian Rhapsody together and I wanted to keep buying but I didn’t expect much. A handful of presents lay around the fireplace like bricks from a broken home. Each parcel was addressed to Mum and it felt strange not seeing Dad’s name. Stranger, even, than not being wrapped.
That night, when I saw the parcels lying by the open fireplace, I put my arm around him and said maybe He hadn’t been. But Timothy seemed confused seeing an empty wine glass next to Mum’s ashtray.
I was thinking that maybe I could get Timothy back to bed and then sneak down, wrap the presents and arrange them under the tree when we heard the noise.
Approaching the fireplace, I brushed Timothy behind me. The noise grew louder, like a match striking a wet box, and a raggedy-black shape snowballed down the chimney, wings unfurling as it hit the glowing coals. Timothy and I jumped but the whole thing might have ended there were it not for a second noise.
With a loud ‘ho ho ho’ our front door burst open and Santa appeared. A startled Timothy slammed into me and I fell into the hearth. The bird and I caught fire and Timothy’s cries woke Mum who came downstairs to see a burning bird in the fireplace and Santa smothering her eldest son.
It took a few days for Santa’s restraining order to come through so I spent Christmas with Mum, Dad and my little brother by my bedside.
Like a normal family.