I never wanted to grow up. Maybe I had a premonition of what adult life held in store for me. I knew where I was happiest, and that was in the twilight of childhood, never sure what was real and what was fantasy. I lived on dreams and half-truths, my poor eyesight protecting me from things I didn’t want to see. I focused myopically on the pages in front of me. As long as I had my nose in a book, nobody could touch me. The world faded away and became harmless.
She was the one who lived in the real world; she didn’t hide in a book, she skipped out happily to meet it. Hello, world. She rolled her eyes at me, her clumsy, short-sighted, left-handed, impractical sister.
‘Oh you’re so stupid,‘ was the refrain of my childhood; book clever, I was, but incapable of carrying out any practical task whatsoever. She, younger and smaller than me, would be sent along to supervise me (if I ever was asked to do anything), and would gleefully report back my mistakes. They made such amusing stories.
The year I was 11 my parents decided it was time to oust me from childhood, and call time on the pretence that Father Christmas existed.
‘We know you know it’s us. You can have your presents in the morning. We’re tired and we need to go to bed, we can’t wait until you fall asleep.’
I did know it was them, had known for years, but this felt like the time that I tried to stay in bed until 10am one day, and my Mum told me that if I did not get up then and there she would run a cold bath and throw me into it. And proceeded to do so.
I didn’t want to get up from the warm feathery bed of childhood. I wanted to stay there forever. I gasped with the shock of cold water dousing childhood traditions, the first intimation of stark reality washing over my goose-pimpling flesh, waking me up when all I wanted was to stay asleep.
I sniffled into my duvet that night, burrowing down into my bed. It felt like the end of Christmas, forever. The beginning of some everlasting Narnian winter.
In the morning I shut my eyes against the dull grey light; the first Christmas morning I had ever woken up to without the crackle of wrapping paper as I moved my feet, the sparkle of presents at the foot of my bed.
Yet as I moved my feet something thudded to the ground. I opened my eyes and saw something glisten. It was a present, miraculously shining there.
This is a special day.
Father Christmas had come after all.
She had stolen out to the Christmas tree in the hallway, found some small presents marked for me, and for her, and moved them to the end of our beds, ready for when I woke up.
‘Merry Christmas,’ said my little sister Jenny, and a smile warmed my whole body.