Xmas 2014 – Cartoon illustrator
There’s a time for everything. We all know that once kids leave Primary school, Santa pretty much stops coming. It’s purely practical. As they grow up, older children make way on Santa’s list for all the new babies that are born – there’s only so much the elves can do and only so many toys to go around.
In a house of three teenagers, my Christmas is completely different. As a mum who adored helping write the Santa letters, putting out the ‘Please Stop here’ sign and slicing carrots for reindeer, I instead watch my teens head into town with their friends. Our family visits to meet Father Christmas are mere memories captured in fading colour photos. Now it’s a case of giving them money – a prompt to buy each other presents to place under the tree, and not forget about their Mam and Dad either!
I’m almost jealous of other mothers with their little kids. “We booked,” one mum said of their planned Santa visit. “I booked too, but during the day,” another mum enthused, “Although it’s better in the evening with all the fairy lights!” “You’ve another few magical years with the baby,” I reminded her. “Yeah, and his doubting brother will be dragged along until he’s 30!” she joked. It’s hard to let go. I look at the lights and fake snow, almost wishing I could hi-jack some pal’s small child to see Santa too!
I knew change was imminent some years back when Junior, my last ‘believer’ was lack-lustre about reading ‘The Night before Christmas.’ “Do I have to?” he moaned when I produced the poem. It was our tradition, reading it at bedtime wearing Santa hats. The situation wasn’t helped by his bigger brother, sniggering cynically. Next morning there was great excitement, waiting for us to unlock the living room and rip open presents, but no mention of the red-suited man.
However, 12 months later I got one more bit of unexpected Christmas magic. At a check-up in early December, the dentist asked Junior if he’d written his Santa letter. “Yeah,” he replied. Was it possible? Could we really get one final visit? After all, if you believe, Santa will come. On Christmas Eve we lit the red candle. Youngest of the family, I always did that with Mam and continued the tradition with Junior. We put out the beverages and ‘Santa stop here’ sign. I couldn’t stop smiling, milking every moment of this last Santa ritual. My boy had no idea how special it was to me. No ‘Night before Christmas’ though.
Again, next morning it was all about the presents. Not a glance at the pie crumbs or chewed carrot. As I cleaned up, I had closure at the finish of our childhood Christmases. Even if Santa no longer calls, I look forward to having family, friends and my teenagers’ pals come partying instead!
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland