Liberties Press in association with Golden Ireland has launched The Little Book of Christmas Memories. Nostalgic, heart-warming, and festively fun, The Little Book of Christmas Memories is an uplifting collection of stories centred on memories of Christmases past. Packed with contributions from some of Ireland’s best-loved writers, including Roddy Doyle, Alice Taylor, Colum McCann, Sinéad Moriarty and John Boyne, among others, each of the author royalties from this collection will be donated to Aware, a charity that supports individuals and families affected by depression. Including festive stories from vivid recollections of a childhood Christmas spent in Ireland to travels as far as modern-day New York, each unique story captures the range of emotions that come bundled up with Christmas memories.
As it’s Christmas, and with all the hustle and bustle you may need to take a moment and relax with a cup of tea, we thought we’d bring you a festive extract:
Driving Home for Christmas by Carol Tobin
“Don’t tell me you still believe in Santa, Carol?” my friend’s mother wailed outside our school as we were breaking for the Christmas holidays. She was my favourite other mother but now her voice wasn’t as soothing as I had previously thought and the beauty spot on her chin was just a fat brown mole. Most of the other mothers stopped loading their cars with their excitable children and looked towards me. Some kids nervously giggled and pointed their tiny fingers in my direction. The expression I was wearing can only be described as that face you make when you’re trying not to cry in front of loads of people who would use this crying episode to produce more crying in the future. Everyone seemed to be waiting for my answer. I felt like I was a contestant on one of those game shows where the prizes don’t match the level of humiliation you endure. “The good news is you have won this state of the art lemon squeezer but the bad news is that your family and friends who were watching tonight’s show no longer have any respect for you.”
Then the giggling became louder and if I had reached puberty my school shirt would have been soaked with putrid sweat, sticking to my bony body. But I wasn’t a pubescent girl,I still had to finish some of my carefree fragrant childhood years, or so I thought. Standing there in front of all these knowing folk I felt like I had aged, that life had sped up, passedme by and that this life had been filled with hardship and occasional physical torture. When I climbed into my mother’s car, after a dignified silence in front of all those faces, I had the weight of a few worlds on my gaunt shoulders.
The dignified silence remained in the back seat of the car as I tried to process what I had just heard. I couldn’t even look at my mother, not to mind answer her gentle queries regarding my day in school. The Bob Marley tape she had playing wasn’t making my body sway like it usually did. Her perfume that I would normally merrily inhale didn’t represent that glamour with which I had associated it with. It was now the scent of a liar.
So there is no Santa. Why was I the last to know? Did the other kids ever believe in him? Was he just invented so that I would behave myself throughout the year? How bold could I potentially be that all these people kept up the pretence so that I would be a good little girl? Was my mother a real blonde? How much of a risk to society was I? Were my three brothers and five sisters in on this?
As we drove through the glimmeringtown of Tralee I wondered if the Christmas lights and decorated shop fronts were all for me. Was the whole town in on this lie so that I would eat my greens of soggy grey cabbage and blackened broccoli? I felt stupid. My lips quivered as I tried to swallow the cry that was about to start. I kicked the back of the empty passenger seat but I didn’t enjoy this sensation and frightened myself and then stopped. Maybe this was the monster the town was saving itself from.
I looked at the back of my mother’s head, her head full of lies. So the sleigh bells I heard last year weren’t Santa’s. That smudge of coal on the wall in the hallway wasn’t from Santa falling into it drunkenly after drinking the whiskey we had left out for him. Did my family eat the reindeer’s carrots during Christmas dinner, so many liars munching away on them? I must have eaten some too, unrecognisable because they had been peeled and boiled. And the toys, all of the toys he left every year for my siblings and I, all nine of us.
When the penny dropped I played with the idea of pretending I still believed in Santa so that I wouldn’t feel so guilty about the long list I had written that year requesting far too many toys.Instead I pretended I still believed in the tooth fairy. I needed money for all the sticky bars I liked to eat.
(c) Carol Tobin
Carol Tobin is a writer and comedian from Tralee, Co. Kerry.
The Little Book of Christmas Memories is in bookshops now and makes the perfect gift!