I have spoken before of our beloved seaside shack, where we spent carefree, salt-skinned, sun-kissed holidays each year in December throughout my childhood. It’s the place in the world that, when I think of it, I can smell the sea air, feel the salt on my skin, and picture the freckles that I gathered each year over those six weeks on my nose and cheeks.
Having the Delicious Nephews around at Christmas-time, I was reminded of the excited anticipation that was associated with Christmas Eve in that little house with its outside candle-lit bathroom. They’re five now and Father Christmas was very much on their minds. I was also reminded of what a fabulous bargaining tool Father Christmas’s Good and Bad Lists are, but that’s another story, for another day!
My mother is everything a storybook mother should be. She cooks delicious, warming food that comforts and fills and tastes like nothing anyone else can cook (even if she gives them the recipe); she bakes a killer chocolate cake, and let us help from as soon as we could hold (and lick) a spoon; she heals wounds with mercurochrome flowers, delicately painted atop grazes and cuts; she tells stories to soothe you to sleep, that she makes up as she sits on the edge of the bed; she knitted our school jerseys (to our disdain – we wanted shop-bought ones, like the other kids, ungrateful brats) and – her talent above all talents – she sews, beautifully.***
Throughout our lives she sewed us the most beautiful clothes, which we often received as Christmas presents. Each year, we’d (read: my parents) pack the car for our 6-week summer holidays at the seaside – parents, daughters, family dog, boxes of peachs and plums from our trees in the garden, suitcases, presents, the pressure-cooker and, always, my Mom’s Bernina sewing machine.
At night, when my sister and I went to bed on our springy beds, mine moved slightly away from the wall to protect me from any spiders (why did I think they couldn’t jump across the 2cm gap from wall to bed on their little spidery legs? I’ll put it down to 10-year old naivete), she’d close the door until there was just a gap through which a shaft of the kitchen light shone (I was scared of the dark), and she’d sew and sew.
One year we got red velvet pyjamas. It was like sleeping in a hug. Another year, I got the coveted Barbie Doll that I’d longed for. Mine, though, was dressed in the most delicately-made yellow chiffon and gold-sequinned ball gown (surprisingly similiar to the fabric from an outfit I’d worn for a dancing competition two months’ before) and she came with a whole set of other carefully made outfits.
On Christmas Eve, I’d try to stay awake, to catch Father Christmas, but the hours of bodysurfing at Kelly’s Beach and the lulling sound of my mother sewing would foil my plans. On Christmas Eve this year, as I lay in my bed in my sister’s house, my door open and the bathroom light on because my nephews, too, are still a little scared of the dark, I thought back to that shaft of light and the sound of my mother’s Bernina as she sewed her love in that tiny house in Kowie so many years ago.
This year, I got a beautiful blue shirt. The boys and their Grandpa got matching stripy summer pyjamas. And, despite not hearing them made, the love in those stitches is still as clear as day. We are very, very, lucky creatures.
Happy Christmas, y’all.
***I make her sound like some 50’s housewife. Add to all of those ‘housewifely’ talents, the fact that she taught extra maths lessons to a large percent of the high school kids at the local high school, including persuading the extremely conservative mining bosses to let her use a room in their building to teach kids from the township over the weekends… you get the picture.