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Christmas..... I Remember..

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Christmas..... I Remember..
I can still feel the excitement from Christmases more than sixty years ago when I was a child. I can taste the satsumas from the bowl on the table at my granny’s; hear the crackle of a Quality Street wrapper as the chocolate was revealed - and quickly consumed; smell the cigars distributed to the men by my grandad just once a year. 
As 1950s children we rarely had such feasts as the ones my granny set out on that polished wooden table: dishes full of chocolates and sweets; bowls piled high with oranges and tangerines, grapes and bananas; Turkish Delight in a thin wooden box, icing sugar snowing down on the table as we sneaked out a sweet jelly cube; nuts with a special nutcracker that you had to squeeze as hard as your little hands could manage, before passing it to dad or uncle to do the job properly. If they were very clever they could produce a nut, perfectly whole and unscathed. 
At home, we were never allowed to help ourselves to food, we always had to ask. Here, at granny’s on Christmas Day we were encouraged to dip into the bowls and fill our glasses with fizzy pop (something else that only appeared on special occasions).  It was always a magical day. My cousins had travelled, with my aunt and uncle, the eighty miles from Margate (another world to us kids) and were already at granny’s when we arrived. 
Each year Father Christmas appeared at the back window, heavily bearded and hooded, a big black sack over his shoulder. There was great excitement while one of the adults went outside to let him in. Although we had our suspicions, it took us a few years to actually admit to ourselves and each other that Santa was our dad dressed up for the part. After all, it was strange how dad was never in the room when Father Christmas came in. 
One year the man in red appeared as usual, and knocked on the window to be let in. Sure enough, dad had left the room only minutes before. We children grinned at each other. “It’s only dad,” said my older brother cockily, watching for my younger brother’s reaction. “It’s not!” insisted John, close to tears, while Geoff continued to nod his head and grin. 
Just then, Father Christmas made his entrance and we gathered round the sack. Presents were distributed, and, with a lot of ho ho ho-ing Santa turned to go - just as the door opened and in walked dad. It was sometime later that we discovered my mom had persuaded her brother to call round and act the part. Such was our shock that I think we all had a couple more years of believing after that. 
Each Christmas my brothers and I would ‘do a turn.’ One year I persuaded my little brother to don a headscarf, apron and women’s slippers and act out a monolog (which became a duologue) with me. He told me recently he still remembers the words. The next Christmas it was Charlie Drake’s, ‘I Lost My Mummy,’ with lots of fake crying from the youngest actor, and another year we all mimed to Bernard Cribbins’ ‘Hole in the Ground.’  My older brother’s turn invariably ended with a squirting cigar or something flying through the air at the audience.  I can hear the family’s laughter as clearly as if it were yesterday. 
Sadly, although there will inevitably still be laughter this Christmas, it is one tinged with sadness. It’s the first in sixty six years without my dad (AKA Spamhead), who passed away three weeks ago, and although I’ve not seen him every one of those Christmas Days he’s always been around before or afterwards to receive his presents and accept thanks for the ones bought for us by mom. Over the years we all came to realize that dad didn’t really like presents unless they consisted of food, or vouchers to be exchanged for something edible.  He loved an outing to M&S Food where he would drive mom mad by filling a trolley with Spam (hence his nickname), cheese, ox tongue, prawns and his favorite lobsters.  
I hadn’t got round to buying the voucher before he died, but I had bought extra warm socks for his bad circulation, and an apron to catch the food that always ended up on his jumper. I’m wearing the socks as I type, and my mom tells me he would never have worn the apron: he didn’t believe he spilled a thing. My eldest son tells me he will wear it with pride.
My dad was ninety two, he had a great life, right up to the end, and that makes me happy. He was a lovely dad, granddad and great granddad and he was the best Father Christmas ever. 
I usually write a poem on the week’s theme but today I’d like to pay homage to my lovely dad and post part of the eulogy I read out at his funeral. This was something I wrote for Father’s Day a few years ago, and amended just recently. I’d based it on looking through old photos, which seems even more poignant today. 
Dear Dad,
You are the slim young man with the thick wavy hair, caught forever in the 1940s, strolling with mom along the prom at Margate; you are the proud father of one, two and – whoops – three babies, reluctantly posing against the1950s décor; you are the stressed looking thirty-something, sprung to life in a fading Polaroid, with three grinning teens in ‘60s shades; you are the pale, gaunt figure, with empty eyes, in the grip of a deep depression – knife poised above the Silver Wedding cake; you are the handsome dad, smiling self-consciously at your sons’ weddings, beaming at the congregation as you walk me proudly down the aisle;  you are the relaxed and happy grey-haired man in 70s sweater, gazing fondly at the first of eight grandchildren; you are the proud husband at the end of the century, fifty years married, squinting as the sun makes a sudden break through the clouds, and your family laughs around you; you are the octogenarian magician, mesmerising great-grandchildren; you are the slightly stooping, white haired man, serenading mom on your Diamond Wedding Anniversary, as I wipe away tears; you are the grinning 90 year old, looking down adoringly as you and mom cradle the long awaited twins, nearly but not quite, the last of your nine great grandchildren……
You were my 92 year old dad. I loved you dearly and I always will.  Your favorite daughter, JK xxx
Thanks for reading,  Jill
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