(This story was first published by Creative Frontiers website)
Ho, ho, ho?
We’re going to see Father Christmas!
Mummy’s smiling, so I smile too. She’s told me all about Father Christmas. He wears red trousers, and a red coat, and a red hat. If I’m good, he’ll give me some new toys. He lives where there’s lots of snow and he’s got some reindeers. I wonder if they’ll let me stroke the reindeers?
We get in the car and drive round the shops for a long time. Daddy gets cross and says naughty words because he can’t find a parking place.
Mummy says, “Look at the pretty lights!”
I look, but I don’t know which way she’s pointing. The windows have got fog on them. Are we at the snow yet?
At last we stop and Daddy lifts me out of the car. Mummy starts to get the buggy out but Daddy says it will be murder pushing that thing through the crowds. Mummy says all right, but he’ll have to carry me if I get tired.
I’ve never seen so many people all squashed together. Most of them are trying to go the other way to us. Someone bangs me with a shopping bag. I don’t like this.
“Nearly there,” they keep saying.
My hat slips down over my eyes. It’s ages before Mummy notices.
We go through some big, glass doors, but it’s just a shop. No reindeers. Daddy picks me up and we go for a ride on the moving stairs. I like this.
Wow! This is better! There are toys everywhere! What can I play with first? What’s that? What does this do?
Mummy grabs me and tells me not to touch. She holds my hand too tightly and says, “Come on, this way.”
There’s a long line of tired-looking grown-ups and children, but still no snow. We stand at the end of the line.
“Listen,” Mummy says. She starts to sing, “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells . . .”
I don’t have to listen to hear the jingly music. It’s very loud.
The lady in front of us says she’s got a splitting headache and it’s all a complete rip-off anyway but you have to do it for the kids, don’t you?
Mummy stops singing.
I don’t like standing still.
Why can’t I play with the toys?
I’m too hot.
I want a drink.
Where’s Father Christmas?
“You’ll see him soon,” Mummy says, but I’m not sure if she means it.
We move forward a few tiny, little steps and other people come to stand behind us. A big girl makes faces at me. I poke my tongue out at her. Mummy and Daddy pretend not to notice.
Then, suddenly, we’re in this dark place. I’m scared of the dark. They know I’m scared of the dark. Why are they taking me in here?
I see Father Christmas, but he’s not a nice, little man. He’s a giant! He’s got fur stuff all over his face and big hands reaching out to me.
“Hello,” he says in a scary voice like Daddy when he pretends to be a monster. “What’s your name?”
I hide behind Mummy. She laughs and says, “Don’t be silly!”
I’m not being silly. I’m being frightened. I hold on tight to Mummy’s leg and peep out. And then I see another man in the corner. He’s trying to hide behind a shiny thing on top of long sticks. Who’s he? What’s he going to do?
Daddy bends down and tries to make me let go of Mummy. He says, “It’s all right. Say hello.”
The giant Father Christmas says, “Come and tell me what you want for Christmas.”
I want to get out, that’s what I want. I want to go home. But I’m lifted up and dumped down on Father Christmas’s lap. I don’t like him. He smells nasty. Why are Mummy and Daddy giving me to him? Help! I start to cry and there’s a flash of bright light that makes my eyes go funny.
I can’t see Mummy!
I scream and wriggle and Father Christmas stands me down on the floor. He tries to put something in my hands but I throw it away.
Daddy has to carry me all the way back to the car. “Complete waste of time and money,” he says.
Mummy says it wasn’t my fault. I’m too young to understand. It’ll be better next year.
Next year? They expect me to go through all that again?