Here is my contribution for this week's Sunday Scribblings.
It is Christmas Eve and I know that soon, when the sky above planet earth grows dark, Santa will launch his reindeer-drawn sleigh and begin his trek to every house in the whole world. And I know too the first part of the earth to grow dark is ours. Maybe already Santa has started on the North Island where it gets dark first. Down here though, at the very bottom of the South Island, the sun lags behind, taking its own slow and dreamy time. Already it is nine o'clock and still light. I stare at the sunlit-pink curtains in my bedroom, willing them to darken to claret.
I fidget about in my bed trying to find a cosy, comfortable space. I call across with a loud whisper to my sister in the other bed. But the lumpy bedclothes don't move. She is asleep. Lucky her. I would love to be able to go to sleep as quickly as she did, asleep even before it is properly dark. Maybe I won't be able to get to sleep at all tonight. What will I do if Santa arrives while I am still awake? I'll have to pretend, but I'm really not sure if I can fool Santa, he has had so much experience.
I crawl over my bed to get to the window that my mother has opened just a little to let the summer-night air in. The curtains billow in and out in the breeze. In and out. In and out. Kneeling at the foot of the bed, I lift a tiny corner of the curtain to take a peek. I can see the dark square of the swing's wooden frame and the chain and seat that hang there, not moving, just waiting, obedient and patient. I see the tin walls of the garage beginning to turn from silver to black. Somewhere a blackbird sings, "Petticoat, petticoat."
I drop the curtain and smell a whiff of mildew and dust. I check that Dad's woollen working sock still hangs at the foot of the bed all ready for Santa's goodies. Back under the blankets, again I shut my eyes. Through the wall at the head of my bed, I hear my parents' voices as they move about in the kitchen. I hear scrapes and bumps, murmurs and sometimes a cough or a laugh. I think of the plate with its slice of Christmas cake, left on the table along with a glass of milk. In the morning all that'll be left on the plate will be some crumbs and a raisin and beside it, the glass with a cloudy tide-mark. I think of the green enamel basin, flecked black where it is chipped, and full of water all ready on the back lawn for the reindeer to drink from. It sits there on the mown grass smack bang in the middle of the square of light the kitchen window throws out. I remember how last year on Christmas morning, still in our pyjamas, we went to check if the reindeer had drunk the water and discovered scrape marks on the lawn where their hooves had landed, and a flat, orange balloon that must've dropped from the sleigh.
The curtain continues to move in and out. In and out. Like my sister's breathing. The breeze outside tinkers with the down-pipe on the corner of the house and makes a tingly noise that could almost be taken for sleigh-bells. The gate squeaks. I squeeze my eyes shut and roll up into a ball under the blankets. The bedroom door slowly opens. Somehow though I know it's not Santa, but only Mum.
"You'd better get to sleep or Santa won't come," she warns.
"I can't get to sleep."
"Close your eyes and count to a hundred."
As she moves over to check my sister, a floorboard creaks under her feet. Then the door shuts with a disapproving click. I begin to count. A hundred seems a long way away. Surely by about thirty I'll be asleep. Surely. I hear a bump on the roof. My eyes fly open.