Christmas Long Ago
Christmas holidays from primary school in the 1950’s came three days before Christmas. Mother and I began preparing our Christmas crib. I placed the figurines in their proper places, leaving the Kings outside (they would be arriving later, from afar)
After breakfast, there was a loud knock on our hall door. It was the postman, heavily laden with parcels and letters. Because it was Christmas, he may have consumed liquor. The age of chivalry had not passed him by and he was obliging a lady by delivering a pheasant to a friend of hers in the village. The bird was dead, and naked, except for his tail feathers. My father suggested he leave the bird and hang it on a hook behind the hall-door for safe-keeping. Postman Tim did so before going off on his bicycle to the neighbouring homes delivering post, but he left the door ajar as he exited.
Father was reading his newspaper when he heard a sound. The pheasant’s head fell to the floor and, quick as lightening, Ginger, our cat, snatched the head and ran down the hallway. Father yelled, “Someone stop Ginger. He’s got something in his mouth”. Mother had come downstairs that moment, and was aghast. “Oh! My God!” she exclaimed. Ginger dropped the head as quickly as he’d picked it up. Mother worked fast. She washed and dried the head, suturing it on to the neck of the pheasant . She parcelled the bird making it easier for the postman to manage. Ginger vanished, having saved one of his nine lives, to return later.
Next day my granny arrived to take me to her home for Christmas. It was a Christmas that always remained in my memory as so many exciting events occurred. It was a dream come true to see the whitewashed walls decked with holly, with large blood-red berries, in the living room. In addition, there was a large open fireplace, in the centre of which blazed a pile of yule logs. The spirit of Christmas was truly there. At the back of the fireplace stood a small crane, upon which hung a black cast-iron kettle. I hung my stocking there for Santa, next to those of my two young aunties. There was a wide chimneystack and, on looking up the chimney, one could see the stars. Santa would not miss this house. He knew that I was there. After all, he was St. Nicholas.
Next morning, Christmas morning, good old Santa had visited Granny’s house. He had left the evidence for all to see. His boot prints were embedded in the soot of the chimney from climbing down to fill our stockings. I got to see my presents, but I was not allowed to touch them . It was the special birthday of our Saviour and we had to go to mass and visit the church crib first. After mass Granny, my aunts and I got into our pony and trap to go home. The pony trotted merrily along, as though the joys of Spring were tickling his hooves, and I looked forward with excitement to opening my presents.
At holidays’ end, I returned home. To my surprise, I saw a pram. As I climbed up to look, there was a lovely, tiny baby asleep inside. I was surprised, but soon fell in love with this little infant, Thad, my new little brother.
(c) Philomena Hearne
Philomena Hearne (nee Stack) trained as a nurse in the UK, later earning a Diploma in Social Studies in University College Cork. Her work, which includes short stories and poems, has been published in Ireland’s Eye, Ireland’s Own, The Little Gem and the Africa magazine.
About A Time to Remember:
This book is a collection of twenty of my stories. Anybody can read them, young and old. They are stories I have written of my own life, my own experiences over my lifetime to date. I was born in 1944 so these are accounts of life since that time, of a way of life that is now well gone. The common thread across the stories is that they all took place in Co. Kerry.
Ireland in the 1950’s is about my experiences traveling on the old steam trains that ran through Kerry at that time. Most of these old routes have now been abolished.
The Gift is an account of the journey home from a summer holiday with a crustacean for a passenger and five children in the car.
My Prinz tells the story of my very first car and some adventures I had in it. This car held a special place in my heart.
Loretto College Killarney is a story about my days going to school there as a full boarder. It tells of the everyday life at school and of the origins of the school itself.
Cutting the Auld Sod is an account of the good ole days cutting turf in the bog with my family, of which I have fond memories.
A Time to Remember is currently only for sale in shops locally in Kerry, or order a copy online here.