Dear December Twenty-Fifth,
Merry Christmas, you! December, it’s your main event and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m destined for an incredibly relaxed Christmas Day. I’ll be eating a lot of food and I may just have a few glasses of Buck’s Fizz. I just know you’re surrounded by the rest of the year’s months and I bet you’re having the best time. We’ve arrived on the last day of Blogmas; the last of my letters to you, the lovely December. Yesterday I wrote the first part to my quick Christmas story. If you’d like to remind yourself of my protagonist, Michael, you can do so here: A Christmas Story: Part One. As you begin to properly wake up now, I’ll tell you the rest of my story, December, and then I’ll leave you to get on with your day…
If there was such a thing as dreaming ardently then Michael was doing just that as Christmas Day began its fifth hour. Michael’s eyelids fluttered and a faint smile moved his lips. The exact smile Michael hadn’t smiled since his wife died just over two weeks before. His breathing quickened for a few minutes for his mind was dreaming of Alison.
“You’re a popular boy, ey, Michael.”
It was 1959 all over again and the new girl at school was staring at Michael with big blue, twinkling eyes. Michael had caught those very same eyes the day before in class and, while she smiled invitingly, Michael blushed and looked down. Michael wasn’t very good at this. “Huh?” Michael managed and met those eyes for a record of three seconds.
Alison tapped her cheek with her index finger. Michael lifted his version of her finger to the spot she was touching. He suddenly realised. His mother had landed quite the kiss on his cheek that morning as he left for school. Michael willed his cheeks not to flush as he aggressively rubbed his cheek, making it redden anyway.
Alison giggled but not in the way a lot of the other girls liked to. Michael no longer felt that he needed to rub so aggressively. He looked at his fingers and then at Alison, in the hope she’d let him know if the lipstick stain was gone. “It’s gone, silly!”
Immediately Alison liked that he didn’t pretend to not know her name. Goodness knows the whole of her class pretended she didn’t exist. Being the new girl was hard. Unknown to her at this point, the school would fall in love with her kind heart soon enough. “Everyone calls me Ali,” she shrugged. “I like it when you call me Alison, though.”
And from then on, while everyone else called her “Ali,” she was Michael’s Alison.
Alison nudged Michael’s shoulder in a way that hinted they should get to class. Every day for three years they met ten minutes before school started and made that very same walk to class. And once they’d finished school forever, Michael gave her a yellow diamond that happily snuggled her ring finger. At sixteen years old, Michael watched his soon to be wife walk down the aisle to his completely in love eyes and he knew this moment would mark the rest of a very good life.
Michael woke at just a few minutes past five am. His heart ached and it ached as he stared up at the ceiling. It was his first Christmas morning without his Alison and, for the first time, he was waking up in his eldest son’s home. His daughter Lily would join them at midday, as would his middle child, Harrison and his husband, Matthew. His family that was no longer he and his wife’s. He heard jingle bells jingle and he frowned. Slowly Michael moved out of bed to find the sound that would have made his wife squeal with excitement.
As it turned out, Michael needn’t search long and hard. He opened the door of his son’s spare bedroom and there sat, propped on a festively wrapped box, finished with jingle bells, was an envelope. Michael crumbled to the floor, hitting his knee as he did. His wife’s writing read,
Do not open until the morning of December 25th
While he knee throbbed, Michael felt a feeling he hadn’t felt for two weeks. It resembled something like hope and it fuelled him to pick up the envelope and gift, before closing the door and heading out onto the balcony. Fairy lights danced around the balcony and Michael noticed that Christmas morning looked good. Stars were still working hard in the sky and he was drawn immediately to the one he was certain winked at him the night before.
He perched on a chair that sat beside the railings. For a few minutes he stared at his star; not feeling any need to rush. Although curious, he didn’t yet want to overthink how one last message from his wife turned up at his door on this calm Christmas morning. With sweet trepidation Michael slid open the envelope to find a postcard of their favourite seaside; their home, Brighton. It was a photograph of the pier; the home of their many fish and chip dinners and secret kisses. His mind wandered through every memory of every kiss and every arcade game they played over the years.
Suddenly, like a boy waking up excitedly on Christmas Day, Michael turned around the postcard.
I knew you’d be the first up. Well, not the FIRST up.
Michael paused and managed to laugh a hearty laugh; the heartiest, most proper laugh he’d laughed for two weeks. This was down to his only little granddaughter, Megan, of course.
You see as soon as we found out about this grim illness of mine a few months ago, my first thought was… Christmas. Before I realised we’d seen our final Christmas together, I thought of you probably waking up at Patty’s house on the 25th and I gathered that would be a difficult one. So I got my very own Santa’s little helper involved. And here we are.
I don’t have much space left on the postcard of our home but that was my intention. My hand is hurting but my heart hurts more at each and every word I’m writing. I only want to say one thing, my darling.
Merry Christmas, Michael.
All my love,
Michael stroked his wife’s name and a tear greeted his thumb. He looked to the sky and his star and he knew there was no stopping it this time. He cried for his wife and he cried for his heart. It took two weeks but he immediately felt relieved. His stare remained on the star as it waved from the sky above. His tears continued to fall but Michael didn’t try to stop them. He brought the small box to the palm of his hand and he slowly unwrapped the last gift from his wife; the jingle bells jingling as he did.
He opened the small blue box to see the Polaroid snap he hadn’t seen in what must have been over thirty years. Below the photo, his young man’s handwriting read “8th September 1952.” The photo captured the moment after he proposed on their pier, in the pouring rain. Grinning big grins at the stranger who offered to take the picture, this was Michael’s favourite photograph in the world. He kissed it briefly and looked at the sky. He looked back at the postcard and thought of Megan probably lying in her bed with her eyes wide open, waiting for someone to tell her she’s allowed to get up. Not that that had stopped her an hour before, of course.
Michael stroked his wife’s “Merry Christmas” written shakily but lovingly.
With more speed than he anticipated, Michael made his way from the balcony to his only grandchild who, as expected, was in bed, eyes alert with Christmas adoration.
“Good morning gorgeous girl,” Michael edged into her room that was lit up with her very own Christmas decorations. Snowflakes hung from the ceiling and fairy lights draped across her walls.
“Morning Grandpops,” Megan grinned knowingly.
“Thank you for your help, Meg.”
“I was helping Grandma, not you!”
“Through helping Grandma, you helped me.” Megan looked up at him, her young six years obvious as she simply grinned back at him.
“I wanted to.”
Michael sat on the edge of her bed and ushered for her to snuggle up to him. She did so immediately and he stroked her red curls. “Merry Christmas, Meggy-moo.”
“Merry Christmas, Grandpops.”
Michael checked the time to see it was now half past six. “Shall we…” Michael trailed off to get Megan excited. She bounced slightly, her mouth getting wider from excitement. “Go wake mum and dad up so we can see what Santa’s brought?”
“Yes, yes YESSSS!” She jumped up and he followed her little footsteps to Patrick and his wife, Jennifer’s room.
Once the turkey and the roast potatoes and the vegetables were served, Michael stared at the best family in the world. He lifted his glass that was full of Buck’s Fizz and he motioned for everyone else to do the same. He caught Megan’s eye and the fizzy pop in her glass and he laughed. “Merry Christmas everyone.”
He watched his kids almost sigh. For the sake of Megan and her little cousins, Michael watched each of his children put on the bravest of faces. With Michael’s three words it felt like a layer of sadness had lifted and room was made for a special Christmas. Michael looked from each of his children to the other and he smiled. Slightly out of sync, their “Merry Christmas everyone” back at him healed a part of his heart that he didn’t think would ever heal.
He looked to the star sitting on top of Patrick’s family’s grand Christmas tree and Michael thought to himself, We have quite the family, Alison.
Thank you for listening to me this month, December. I have adored writing to you. You’re quite the listener. I’m glum that I am writing the end of my final letter to you but I won’t be quiet over here on the blog for the rest of the month. All the same, writing to you was really something. Once again, have a very merry Christmas, December. You deserve the most cosy and fizz-fuelled day.
Love, Kat ❤