Christmas Eve was always my favourite day of the season when I was growing up. A heady combination of excitement and anticipation created an atmosphere in the house quite unlike any other. Carols on the radio, a Tijuana Christmas on the turntable, Mum ticking off the tasks in the kitchen, Dad teasing us about the presents we apparently weren’t going to receive. Then, after bedtime, the lights from the tree which stood outside my bedroom door, flickered in the corner of the room. To be honest, I’m not sure Christmas Day ever had a chance of matching up to it, though we enjoyed some very special December 25ths as well.
And then there were the stories. Memories of Christmases shared, family stories quite possibly embellished. My favourite story concerned events on Christmas Eve in about 1967 or 8. It was told every year without fail and I have tried to keep up the tradition, although I am just re-telling what I remembered being told, a second-hand version if you like. The only person involved still living is Mum and if the memory is somewhere inside her, it’s very deeply hidden. It concerned a Wendy house, whisky and a nosebleed.
My sister’s main present was the said Wendy house. Dad and my grandfather decided to put it together late on Christmas Eve, while Mum and my grandmother went to Midnight Mass. They oiled the construction process with a decent bottle of whisky. Essential, apparently. All went well until the house was almost fully built. Built but with a significant flaw. Mum and my grandmother returned to find two grown men, helpless with laughter, one of whom was bleeding profusely from the nose. The house was looking just as it did on the picture on the box with one important exception. They had built it with Dad on the inside. Dad had then succumbed to a nosebleed. The next hour or so was spent mopping up, deconstructing the Wendy house and then re-constructing it without a grown man inside.
I hope somewhere inside Mum can recall the Wendy house. I’ll do my best to keep the story alive.