If any present deserved a capital P it was a Christmas one. And particularly one from a jolly stranger who, in journeying from the North Pole, suffered amnesia about our behaviour, yet never forgot our first names, writes Tom McParland as he recalls fond memories of Christmases past.
“Tom – run on – or you’ll make yourself late for school!” my Mum chastised, grabbing two doorstep pints of milk with one hand and reinforcing her admonition by firm door-closing. My delay wasn’t mere reluctance to go to school – that was a given. It was my contemplative examination of the milk bottles. In two tics I’d determined that there were no robins, holly nor reindeer printed on the aluminium tops.
But eight-year-old fervour convinced me there were before Mum’s intrusive reality check. Same way I’d imagined that I saw bleeding geese beaks dangle-drip onto sawdust in Chubby McGolderick butchers. Or that Coleman corner shop’s invite to, JOIN OUR CHRISTMAS CLUB had been dusted to a more conspicuous position. But it hadn’t really. It remained ludicrously lopsided between Duraglit and Cherry Blossom tins. I had become a precipitate magi looking for magic where there wasn’t any.
Since Belfast reality held curt comfort for me or my friends on the weary winter walk to school, in this non-advent Advent we’d dream up delusions. The way parents did when hallucinating about the empowerment of a pools win. But we took things a lot further.
Financial constraints were as ignored as the frugalities of post-war Ireland. According to which bombast we believed (and nobody believed any of it) Santa could’ve left us: a sound projector that showed Cinemascope, spaceships capable of Martian travel, cowboy suits with lariats, spurs and Cuban heel boots. Or two-gun gun belts that fired real bullets. Nobody mentioned horses because nobody would go as far as hay or stables. Besides, why spoil a fantasy with mucking out or manure shovelling?